Onion John by Joseph Krumgold

Onion John is a Newberry award-winning book by Joseph Krumgold.  The main character of the story is a boy named Andy Rusch, who lives in Serenity, New Jersey.  Andy feels that his father is too controlling of his life.  A strange man named Onion John becomes Andy’s friend.  Onion John is very unusual.  He eats onions as if they were apples, and his language is difficult to understand.  He also has strange beliefs and lives in an old-fashioned hut.  Andy’s father becomes worried about Onion John’s influence on Andy.  Because of these concerns, Andy’s father tries to control Onion John’s life, but things do not go according to plan.

Andy’s father seems extremely sensible and practical.  This might seem like a negative thing at first.  Andy does not always get along with his father, but as the story progresses, Andy begins to understand his father better.  I think Andy’s father might actually be my favorite character in the book.  One of my favorite parts of the book is near the end of the story, when Andy and his father spend time alone together during a fishing trip.  They have time to talk with each other to better understand their different points of view.  I especially liked this part because it teaches valuable lessons about fatherhood.

This is very good book about the challenges of relationships between parents and their children.  I was sometimes confused about Onion John and his strange behavior.  For example, he talks about fumigating the town of Serenity with smoke from an oak tree’s fire that will rid the people of their “evil spirits.”  In a way, Onion John seemed kind of creepy to me.  However, by the end of the story, Onion John indirectly helps Andy and his father to understand each other better.  Even though Onion John is not my favorite character, and this is not my favorite book in the world, I can see why this book won the Newberry Medal.  It teaches some important lessons about parenthood and relationships, in an unusual way.

Onion John by Joseph Krumgold is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

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