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Onion John

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3.4 of 5 stars 3.40  ·  rating details  ·  2,362 ratings  ·  130 reviews

The story of a friendship between a 12-year-old boy and an immigrant handyman, almost wrecked by the good intentions of the townspeople.

Hardcover, 248 pages
Published 1959 by Thomas Y. Crowell
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Lars Guthrie
And speaking of Newbery Award winners, here is 1960's. Being a compulsive list maker, I'm proud to report that I have now read 42 of the past 77 award winners, and despite some recent doubts in the press about the Newbery, I have found that this project an excellent avenue to get a feel for children's literature. 'Onion John' is an extraordinary book, ostensibly about twelve-year-old Andy Rusch's friendship with the town eccentric and how that helps Andy and his father to work out the problems f ...more
Jim
And the moral of the story is? Don't try to force a crazy bum into not being a crazy bum anymore, because they'll just turn out to be a crazy bum anyway.
Pam
Read in the 4th grade and ___ years later still remember it like it was yesterday. This book started my love of words, thoughts and books. It has a true life moral to the story about how to accept other peoples ways and respect their right to be who they are in this world. The basic story the townfolk try to "bless" the odd man out with the introduction to a totally new way of life, so foriegn to his own, which results in the main character thinking something is wrong with him....Newbery winner, ...more
Cheryl
I had almost been discouraged from reading this book, right now, because I read a review from someone that the book hardly deserved to be a Newberry Award winner. Because I have made a commitment to read all the Newberry Award winners, I plowed ahead...and boy, am I glad that I did. I thought that the book was one of the best that I have read. I was frustrated by some poor editing of serious punctuation problems. That was the only problem that I saw in the book.
Onion John carries the important
...more
Katie
I didn't like this book, then I did. The book drug on too long, then it was over too quickly. I felt no connection to the characters, then I cried and rejoiced for them.
Onion John was a mere 250 pages yet took me the better part of a week to read. Why? Well, the first 150 pages or so are simply boring. Even by adult standards. There is excellent character development, the plot is well laid, and the setting is impeccably described. The book is quite good, I just didn't like it.
Then the story fina
...more
Abby Harrison
Have you ever noticed that children seem to be oblivious to prejudice because of their youth and naivete? This was the case with Andy Rusch, the son of a prominent man in small town Serenity. Andy is the only person in town who was able to befriend the town vagrant and crazy person "Onion John." With focus and determination, Andy learns John's "language" and worships him as the ultimate role model. He even goes so far as to convince the town to build John a "proper" house.

As disaster strikes and
...more
Tim
Oct 05, 2009 Tim rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
I read this book in fourth grade.

While I remember hardly nothing of the book itself, I remember that I truly hated it.
Benji Martin
I went into this book feeling skeptical. As a kid, one of my favorite books was My Side of the Mountain, which got an honor in 1960, the year that Onion John won. My Side of the Mountain is still being read by kids all over the world. A kid is probably reading it right now as I'm typing this. I'd be willing to bet that there aren't 50 kids in the world who have read Onion John this year. I hadn't even heard of it before a month ago, and yet the 1960 committee thought it was better than My Side o ...more
Megan
This was quite different. It's the story of a boy's friendship with the town outsider, and the effect that bond has on the boy's father-son relationship, and on the close-knit community. I can't say I identified with it much. However, I did like the issues Krumgold raised about the right way to offer to help someone. In this case, do you offer the help you think the person needs, even if he/she doesn't really want it? How do you know that you know best what he/she needs? Here, we see the down si ...more
Phil Jensen
A 12 year old kid ditches his baseball buddies to found a cloud-worshiping cult with a homeless man who lives in a junk yard. After that, it gets kind of weird. Normally, I like weird, but this was the kind of weird that made me say, "Huh. That's weird" then put the book down. I just never cared what was going to happen next.

I'm giving it an extra star for the last chapter when the kid goes ice fishing with his father. That was a really beautiful chapter, and it made me realize that the relation
...more
D.C.
This is a sad, sweet, and in-depth book that may have a bit of symbolism involved in it. The ending is kind of weird but strangely satisfying with more of a "use-your-imagination-to-find-out-what-happens" climax. I liked the descriptions of John's old house and his lifestyle. The story will make you get mad at some people and sympathize with others, and with some exception, I found this a both touching and convincing entry in the Newbery list.
Jessie
I was not expecting this book to be good, but it's amazing. It starts out seeming like most books written in the 50's but then suddenly it's starts dealing with all sorts of complex ideas like how hard it is to help people, and how our ideas of what's best for people aren't always accurate. It also beautifully explores the pain and loss involved in growing up.
Emily
I liked this book a lot. While in the middle I thought, "How did I not know about this book before now??" It kind of bogs down towards the end but I enjoyed the character and style- reminded me of Will Tweedy and Cold Sassy Tree. I'm reading my way thru the Newbery winners and was glad to find this one.
Debbie
48 1960: Onion John by Joseph Krumgold (Crowell)

reunion, 2013 (248 pages)

Andrew Rush is a junior high school age boy living in a small town in the 60s. Onion John, an immigrant, is an unusual character who lives at the edge of town and makes his way by finding things in the dump. Although John understands English, his own language is such a mixture of sounds from his native language that no one is able to understand him. That is until Andrew realizes that he can make out some meaning and then be
...more
Kathi

The Newbery Winner for 1960, Onion John is a sweet coming-of-age story.

The book focuses on 12-year old Andy’s unusual friendship with Onion John, a poor, really eccentric European immigrant who speaks little English. Luckily, Joseph Krumgold also gives Andy’s and his father’s relationship the importance it deserves.

Although parts of the story would not be believable as 21st century realistic fiction, important parts still could happen today.

I hope they do, and often.


P.S. Krumgold won the Newbe
...more
Bonnie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joel
Onion John is the most fascinating friendship book I have ever read. The book shows how friendship can take down barriers as well as set new ones up. I like how the author shows how different problems begin to accumulate on a friendship that seems will not survive long. While reading the book you feel the strugles Onion and the child go through to maintain their friendship. Onion John shows how anything is possible, no matter what the circumstances. The aspect that makes this book a masterpiece ...more
Sarah
Synopsis: Andy Rusch is a boy happily growing up in the small town of Serenity, New Jersey. While playing in a championship baseball game, he strikes up a conversation with Onion John as he looks for things to salvage in the town's landfill. Andy and Onion John become friends as Andy becomes the only one who can understand Onion John. After Andy introduces Onion John to his father, his father takes it upon himself to have the Rotary Club build Onion John a new house, because the one the Onion Jo ...more
Tyler
Synopsis: Andy Rusch is a boy happily growing up in the small town of Serenity, New Jersey. While playing in a championship baseball game, he strikes up a conversation with Onion John as he looks for things to salvage in the town's landfill. Andy and Onion John become friends as Andy becomes the only one who can understand Onion John. After Andy introduces Onion John to his father, his father takes it upon himself to have the Rotary Club build Onion John a new house, because the one the Onion Jo ...more
Camilla
(When I first read this book, I gave it 2 stars. But now...I see this books for the worth it gives in just one scene (side scene, even!).)
You know, I read this book quite a while ago, but I can't get this one scene out of my head. I just have to make note of it so that one day, when this scene replays in my mind, I will always know where to find it -- it won't ever get lost in an anonymous cover in the back of my mind. I can't do justice to the scene, and it can't stand alone--it needs the rest
...more
Gale
“Alchemy in New Jersey?”

Twelve-year-old Andy Rusch grew up in a small town named Serenity, working part time in his father’s hardware store, but this particular fall proves anything but serene for him. In addition to a few buddies his own age he has added a most unusual, adult friend, who quietly grows in personal influence on the impressionable youth. Eventually Andy feels the strain and frustration of this emotional tug-of-war; he writhes under the unfair burden of having to choose to honor h
...more
Jen
Mary Poppins meets Peter Pan meets circa-1980s Disney Channel meets any one of many stories about a group of people forever changed by one wandering soul.

Like Mary Poppins, this book isn't really about its namesake so much as the people whose lives he touches and changes. Being a vagabond and a bit of a simpleton (it seems appropriate in this case), Onion John is liked and pitied by the whole town of Serenity, but in their desire to help him they discover it is really they who need to be helped
...more
6hammami_omar
Onion John had its good parts and its bad parts. The book is about a young boy named Andy and his adult best friend named Onion John. The book starts very slow, telling you about the daily life of Andy and John. I personally do not like this slow start, as it starts to get fairly boring. It is in the middle of the book when the conflict starts to arise. The people of Serenity decide on building a modern house for John, as he lives in a poorly made "house". But the reason this is a conflict is be ...more
Sam
Only five authors in the 90+ year history of the Newbery Medal have won that honor twice. But while E. L. Konigsburg, Lois Lowry, Katherine Paterson, and Elizabeth George Speare are all widely acknowledged as some of the most important authors in the history of American children's literature, Joseph Krumgold is more of a footnote.

Partly, that's because his writing for children was only a very small part of Krumgold's career. He was primarily a screenwriter, director, and documentary filmmaker; s
...more
Amy
If I had to put a moral to this story it would be ; You can't change other people, only yourself. Probably more of a "guy book". No sex, swearing, or violence.
I'm kind of picturing Peter Pan being picked up by some social reform program and being forced to live a "normal" life. Only the kids of the town can accept a man who defies convention to live a humble life in the woods.
Carl Nelson
1960 Newbery Medal recipient.

Paced too oddly to make a good read. The first 230 pages are far too long and the last 20 pages are far too short. I never really got invested in the characters, who are largely busybodies who make decisions for others without bothering to find out if the "beneficiary" wants that outcome. The valedictory moment at the end is quite good; too bad a lot of water goes under the bridge before then.
Caitlin
This is a sweet and touching tale about a man who sees the world differently. It is about a man who lives in a makeshift home on the edge of town who befriends boys - the only people who seem to understand him and support his way of doing things. It is a great story about growing up, being different, and the wonderful and unique gifts we all have to offer the world.
Annie
In my quest to read all of the Newbery Award winners, I can honestly say that Onion John is not one of my favorites. On the other hand, it gave me insight on the question of "does the world need people who don't quite fit in?"
Onion John is a man who does things his own way. John has lived in Serenity, New Jersey, for many years, scavenging to furnish his home, working a little to buy food and supplies. Then he needs a new hinge for his door and suddenly everyone wants to change Onion John, from
...more
Antof9
It was ok - just ok. I loved the conversation between Andy and his father at the end, which is what earned it a third star. Otherwise, it was just kind of "meh". I think part of my meh came from the fact that I wanted to know where the title character was at the end of the book. That's about all. Have.

Update: since this book signaled the first time an author won the Newbery award twice, I was very tempted to go back and read my review on "And Now Miguel," but I didn't want that to color my opini
...more
Melissa Namba
This book was definitely Newbery worthy, but as I look at it from the perspective of a teacher I have to think about how to set it up since it was written in the recent past. Inflation really has to be addressed because Andy tries to run away from home with $1.50. That wouldn't even cover bus fare these days. Also, the people are a little incredulous about a man walking on the moon, which has now been accomplished.

This book was interesting and I liked the friendship between John and Andy. I wasn
...more
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65864
In addition to being a renowned author of books for young readers, Joseph Quincy Krumgold was a scriptwriter for several well-known movies, including "Seven Miles From Alcatraz" (1942) and "Dream No More" (1953). While he did not have a great number of books published over the span of his writing career, Joseph Krumgold became the first author to win the John Newbery Medal for two different books ...more
More about Joseph Krumgold...
...And Now Miguel Newbery Award Library II: And Now, Miguel, Bridge to Terebithia, Sarah Plain and Tall, The Wheel on the School Henry 3 Newbery Award Library Box Set 1: It's Like This Cat, Julie of the Wolves, Onion John, Sounder & NOW MIGUEL                LB

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