T. Clary's Reviews > John Bloom and the Victory Garden

John Bloom and the Victory Garden by Leigh Shearin
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Dec 31, 2014

liked it
Recommended for: middle grade

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

BRIEF RECAP:
The story centers around three boys (John, Joe, and Chewie), all age ten, who are friends and live in the same small farming town community of Appleside, New Jersey. Up until December 7, 1941, the boys’ life consists of mischievous neighborhood pranks, and basically just being rambunctious ten year old boys. However, their mindsets, and life as they know it, suddenly change when they receive news of Japan bombing Pearl Harbor. Feeling patriotic and protective of America, the boys consider joining President Roosevelt’s efforts in supporting the cause against the enemy invasion. The boys decide to form a club called the ABC Club—the Appleside Boys Club. Although not initially certain what their efforts will entail with the club, they make an attempt at being good Samaritans around the community; only their efforts as good Samaritans are challenged by the likes of their grumpy ninety year old neighbor Mr. Hutchins. Eventually, Mr. Hutchins and John form a special bond and mutual respect for one another despite their age difference.

PROS:
The story took me back in time to the days when my friends and I were young, rambunctious, and looking for ways to satisfy our mischievous appetites for adventure around the neighborhood. And as much as I cringed at the thought of these boys possessing a “rabbit skull” as a souvenir, I vaguely remember the thought that I too possessed a rabbit’s foot when I was younger; for what purpose besides “luck” I don’t recall. Anyway, it was a feel good story about three young friends and their way of contributing to the wartime effort in their own special way, all the while staying true to themselves and being just simply…boys. It is also a story about an unlikely bond formed between a young boy and an old man during a time when the nation’s security was compromised by war.

The illustration map of Appleside, New Jersey shown in the beginning of the book was also a plus as it gave me a perspective of the small town and where the boys lived in relation to one another and their neighbors.

I also liked at the end of the read, the author shared recipes of dishes that were mentioned and woven throughout the story. The recipes included were: a Shepherd’s Pie, Egg Custard, Apple Crumble, a Lemon Pound Cake, and Buttered Noodles.

CONS:
There were several instances where certain groups were mentioned that I felt were unnecessary to the story and could easily have been left out; such as the many references to Hitler and The Hitler Youth (also Freemasons and Eastern Star Ladies were referenced). Although I understand the historical aspect of it, I felt the repeated mentions did not adequately lend itself to the story at hand. What I also found a bit confusing was John’s loathe of Hitler and everything he stood for, yet he seemed to admire and want to emulate The Hitler Youth, so much so that that is where he got the idea to create a boys club. My apologies if that was not the author's intention, but that is how I interpreted it.

Also, the “victory garden” aspect of the story was not developed enough in my opinion. I am guessing that based on how the book ended there will be more reference to the victory garden in book two?

***

Overall I liked the read and would recommend it to middle grade students; specifically geared towards young males.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
December 31, 2014 – Shelved

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