Sunday, May 22, 2011

Onion John - A Book Review by Robert Steven Mack

I have always maintained the idea that all books can be turned into films. That turned out not to be so.

It was my birthday, and I turned twelve years old. As most birthdays it was an undeniably happy and busy day of action. I got up knowing of the usual festivities but could only hope for an extra good time. It turned out ,however, that during the early morning hours, while my parents were fast asleep, I was to be kept prisoner in my own room - captivated by my wondrous book and movie collection. It may sound dramatic but our tiny tv had been moved into my media room. There were also plenty of books to muse over, and even my tiny little laptop that I am utilizing right at this very second. Sometime later, my aunt dropped by for some breakfast cake and tea in celebration of my birthday. As usual, she decided to spoil me and brought me a whole bag filled with movies plus a picture book on television she got at a library sale. My other presents weren't half bad either. I got puzzles, a DNA set, movies, a book on the art of illusions. My mother, Diana, gave me the book on "Onion John."

"Onion John" is coming-of-age Newbery award winning book about father-son relationships, and is a children's book written in 1959 by Joseph Krumgold. I was unable to read it when I first got it however, (on January 16, 2011) due to my stack of other books impatiently waiting for me to read them: going to my school library and my local library book sale every Saturday and Sunday really has an effect! I later decided to read it for an oral book report that was coming up in my school. What fun! I needed a good captivating book. So at last, sometime in late April I cast my milk and cookies aside (onto the table) and turned to the first page of the book; and this is what I found:

"Onion John" is about Andy Rush, an intelligent seventh grader living in the small town of Serenity. Andy likes living in Serenity. He likes the people, the places, and playing on the Serenity baseball team. His father, Andy Sr., thinks otherwise and already has big career plans for Andy. And this is when Andy meets up with the eccentric town weirdo, Onion John, who speaks in his own mysterious language that no one can understand but Andy Jr.. The two soon become best friends. Andy (and his friends) love to listen to John's stories and hear John play his beat up old fiddle. Andy also enjoys to participate in John's guaranteed Rainmaking ceremony. Most of the parents don't understand Onion John. One grown-up in particular ,Andy Sr., does not like John and is full of prejudices. Andy Sr. does not approve of the kids spending the amount of time with John they have spent. Oddly and rather ironically, Onion John soon befriends Andrew Rush Sr. and that is that. One look at John's shabby dilapidated house and Andy Sr. decides that John needs a complete lifestyle makeover. After getting the whole town involved the first step is to build John a new house, thinking that they are doing good. Have they ever stopped and thought about John's needs, they may have realized that John does not want to be changed...

"Onion John" is an excellent story of friendship, the power of the will, and growing up. The towns people tried to change Onion John's ways (including change his rather peculiar onion only diet) because they thought they were helping him. In fact, they were destroying him. The captivating story is topped of by the brilliant writing and backed-up by the social themes and morals of a loving but controlling father who only wants the outside world to mirror his inside visions.
The book revolves around three characters: Andy, Andy Sr., and Onion John. In the end,I chose not to use this book for my book report for I could not come up with a decent way to incorporate the language into the envisioned art project - a film I was going to present to the class. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this book immensely and I hope that you will, too.

Copyright 2011 by Robert Steven Mack (all rights reserved!)

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