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Johnny Swanson

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  123 ratings  ·  37 reviews
The secret to instant height? Stand on a box.
Want to make your money go further? Roll it down a hill.
The answer to smelly feet? Wear a clothes pin on your nose.

Eleven-year-old Johnny Swanson is in business. He's raking in the money with his advertising scams and his advice columnist persona, who offers advice on absolutely anything in return for a shilling. But his money-m
Paperback, 384 pages
Published March 13th 2012 by Yearling (first published April 29th 2010)
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This book is utterly fabulous, from the informative historical setting to the lovable characters to the mystery and intrigue and love. Set in the early 1900's, it tells the story of a scrawny boy with a father who died in the war, Johnny Swanson, and his struggles to help his mom and himself survive with little money. What I didn't expect at all was that this book is a mystery with exciting plot twists. The story centers around familial love, friendship, and learning to do what is right even in ...more
The title character, Johnny, hates being short so when he sees an advert in the newspaper that promises the secret to tallness he steals some money off his mum to send away for the secret. Unfortunately this is a con, but it gives Johnny an idea for his own money-making scheme to help pay back the money he stole and to help his mum pay the rent. He places his own adverts in the paper to trick people into sending him money. Some of his adverts were really clever and funny, and even though he was ...more
Margo Tanenbaum
Eleanor Updale, the award-winning author of the popular Montmerancy series, takes us to England in 1929 in her newest historical mystery novel for young people. Our hero, Johnny Swanson, is an engaging young boy who finds himself mixed up in a murder mystery--and his own mother is the suspected murderer! Johnny's sure as can be that she's not guilty, but no one will believe him and the police seem to have already made up their mind. Can Johnny save her before it's too late?

There seem to be three
I have previously read Ms. Updale's Montmorency books, so I came to the book with high expectations. And they were met. This story is similar to the Montmorency series in the high use of deception by multiple characters, but is different in almost all other aspects. Johnny and his mom are having financial troubles, and Johnny wishes he could earn some money. He figures that if he were taller, he could get more jobs, so he secretly borrows some of his mother's Christmas money to send off for The ...more
One of the things I love about this author's books--she also wrote the wonderful Montmorency series--is that they are like nothing else being published these days. Her characters are interesting and stick with you after you finish the book. So it is with this one. Eleven-year-old Johnny Swanson is desperate to help his mother out financially in 1929 England. After he is fooled by a come-on advertisement in the local paper, he decides to write his own ads and earn some money. As he does so, he we ...more
Johnny tries to think of a way to make money when the landlord raises the rent but he causes problems with his scheme. When the local doctor and his wife leave town, Johnny's mom is out of a job. When the doctor is found murdered Johnny's mom becomes the only suspect because of what others perceive of odd behavior. Now it is up to Johnny and Mr. Hutchinson to clear his mother.

I enjoyed this book. Johnny tries his best to help out but it does not work out as he planned. When his mother is accuse
I loved this children's/young adult novel by Eleanor Updale. The novel was set in late 1920's England. I liked the mystery mixed with historical fiction and history. Johnny Swanson is a great character, and there are many others who are well loved. I found the TB plot of the story to be very interesting and informative. I think that this book may be a little too much for little people though. I would say it is much more YA/adult then children's.
Andrew Schultz
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ms. Yingling
Johnny's life in rural 1929 England is difficult, but it's about to get worse. He's picked on by classmates, and his hard-working, widowed mother works as much as she can cleaning houses to keep up with the rent, but it's not enough. Johnny, having been fleeced by an ad himself, decides to start placing ads in the paper for people to send in a shilling or two for advice, to which he replies with things that are not very helpful. He invents an "Aunt Ada" to cover his tracks at the newspaper and p ...more
This book is unlike anything I've read before. It's historical fiction with a mystery and yet, I'd be reluctant to recommend it to the readers in the library. Johnny, the main character, is very smart and wants to help his mother. He's also very small and is picked on because of his height. When he reads an ad that promises to help him grow, he steals some of the money his mother has saved and sends it off, assured that this will answer all his problems. However, it's a fraud. But, Johnny, after ...more
Ringo The Cat
Eleanor Updale is probably most known for the Montmorency series. In Johnny Swanson, set in London in 1929, with a couple of actual historical places (the Welsh Craig-y-Nos sanatorium) and events (TB scare, importance of newspaper ads) in the background, she also takes the historical fiction route and introduces us to 11-year-old Johnny, the shortest boy in his class, and the unlikely hero of this crime adventure.

The shortest boy in his class, Johnny decides to ‘borrow’ money from his mother’s P
Johnny Swanson Review

By: Margaret Gregorich

Johnny Swanson, by Eleanor Updale is about a boy named Johnny who lived in England in 1929 with his widowed, hard working mother and they were very poor. He saw an ad in the newspaper one day and takes money from the jar that was used to buy Christmas presents. He gets nothing back and is very angry. Then Johnny joins that business himself. He sends back useless information to the innocent people that paid him, using the fictional Aunt Ada to cover his
Suad Shamma
This was a thoroughly entertaining read for me. It's quite bulky for a YA mystery novel, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

It started out a little slow as it set the stage for the murder that occurs halfway through the book, by introducing us to Johnny Swanson, his very unpopular life at school, the financial hardships he faces at home with his mother who had to take on extra work to make ends meet, and on top of all that his own personal difficulties. Johnny made the mistake of stealing money from h
Updale's Montmorency books are truly some of my favorite juvenile historical literature, so I was really excited about this. And it is very good, an engrossing & well-written story: but it's very dark. Of course, dark things have happened aplenty in the Montmorency saga, but there is a fair amount of humor there, too. This book doesn't have any rest from sad & seemingly inescapable events happening to the main character, Johnny Swanson. Luckily, things do get straightened out at the end ...more
Johnny Swanson is desperate to make some money. His paper route hardly pays enough to buy the weekly comics, but the rent his mother pays is being raised 3 shillings a week, and, in 1928, there aren’t that many jobs for an 11-year-old bullied little boy. After being tricked himself, Johnny places advertisements in the newspaper to fool people into sending money to him for worthless advise. One thing leads to another, and before long, Johnny turns amateur detective to help solve a murder and to g ...more
Michaela Lake
A delightful tale. I wanted to read this book because Johnny, the hero, was born in my parents' era, and I thought it might give me an insight into their childhoods. Indeed, it did.

There was not really any new information that I had not been aware of before, but to see that era through the eyes of a child of the time was informative. It gave me a better idea of why my parents held some of the attitudes and approaches to life that they did.

The story is beautifully told, and things which might b
Arthur Pengerbil
Reading Level: Grades 4-6

When 11-year-old Johnny, the very shortest boy in his class, steals money from his mother and answers an ad promising to give him the "secret to instant height", he is dismayed to receive a note advising him to "stand on a box." Angry and ashamed, Johnny begins his own mail order scam thus setting a series of events in motion which may lead to his own mother's death.

Other stories of questionable young entrepreneurs include:

The Great Brain by John Dennis Fitzgerald

The Yea
I love this book! It's so different and unique :D I have no idea how the author came up with this brilliant idea!
The book cover is what made me pick it up and buy it. It was a cute story. It is a murder mystery for kids. It just isnt my cup of tea. It is rather forgetsble.
Lynne Wheater
Such a good mix of mystery and history, good insight into Britain after WWI, poverty and survival through the eyes of a young boy.
Barukisu (Balqis)
Its something like The Mysterious Benedict Society but more thrilling involving murder and real public taunt. It started first as interesting story about a boy trying to help her mother raised their financial income through fraud adverts. However everything turn nasty when a murder of and old town doctor occur and his mother was charged with guilty. Its all down to Johnny now to prove that his mother was innocence and to find the real murderer. Who could have guess? Me not. But well, overall, it ...more
Set during the depression a kid trying to help his mother out by posting fake adds, “Want to get your baby to stop peeing the bed?” send in a penny and get the answer, “Have him sleep on a chair.”Also, tuberculosis is a part of the back drop. I lost interest way through and did not finish it but it was not a bad book. Good for 3-5 grades. ...more
This book was ridiculously long, had too many subplots, and failed to evoke emotion, though it should have, what with (view spoiler). I did enjoy the theme of the newspaper adverts, but this was just another subplot that was not explored as much as it could have been
I started this book and was interested in the story of a young boy living in post-WWI England, but when he started a business to scam people out of their money through newspaper advertisments, I got annoyed and put it down. Why can't we have books with uplifting characters for our children to read about.
Sarah Tilatitsky
This book is pretty good. I really love Eleanor Updale's books. They are soooo good. Anyway, the story of Johnny, his tricks, and the ingenous of stupid ads are carzy, but cool (in a way). I mean, thinking up of ads to trick people into giving money is funny! Still, it's wrong. Well, read and enjoy! ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Full of twists and excitement (especially towards the middle/end)! Excellent mystery! At first, the beginning was slow, but as the story developed, I realized that it was an essential part to the story. Kept me reading and engaged. :)
I trudged through the first hundred pages or so...There was a lot of set up and I wanted a bit more action, but I continued on and I'm glad I did. The plot thickened, emotions stirred, and I finished the rest of the book that afternoon.
Such a unique story! Part historical fiction, part murder mystery, with totally sympathetic, realistic characters. Definitely one to recommend to the next kid who needs historical fiction for a book report!
Michael Fitzgerald
Starts slow but then it gets better. Unfortunately, the end is disappointing - ridiculous and trite. It could have been a much better book, but it seemed to be pulled in different directions.
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Eleanor Updale studied history at St. Anne's College, Oxford, before becoming a producer of TV and radio current affairs programmes for the BBC. Her first children's novel, Montmorency, won the Silver Smarties Prize and the Medway Book Award.
More about Eleanor Updale...
Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman? (Montmorency, #1) Montmorency On The Rocks: Doctor, Aristocrat, Murderer? (Montmorency, #2) Montmorency and the Assassins: Master, Criminal, Spy? (Montmorency, #3) Montmorency's Revenge (Montmorency #4) The Last Minute

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