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Onion John

post written by Emma Filbrun

Onion John by Joseph KrumgoldTitle: Onion John
Author: Joseph Krumgold
Major Themes: Family, Friendship
Synopsis: When Andy befriends Onion John, not only his life but that of many people in the village, is changed.

Onion John has been around a long time, and is a Newberry Medal book, but I had never read it. Apparently, it’s not one of the most common Newberry books. I was able to buy a copy used awhile ago, and finally got it read recently. What a pleasant surprise! This is a keeper.

Onion John is an older man in the community. No one can understand him when he talks, and no one really pays him any attention. He’s just always there, part of the landscape, so to speak. He rummages through the dump and works odd jobs for a very low wage. Then, one day, Andy Rusch suddenly realizes he can understand what John is saying! Andy’s life changes, as he starts doing things with John.

Andy’s father becomes interested in John and his life. What happens when the Rotary Club decides to make John their project for the year? How can Andy make his father understand what he really wants out of life—which is not exactly what his father wants for him?

This is a lovely story of a father and his son learning to understand and accept each other, and a town trying to live with someone who is “different”.

WARNING: Gosh is used on page 107, chapter 9.

Age Levels:

Read Aloud—Ages 8 – 12
Reading Independently—Ages 10 – 12, 12 – 15


Links to buy Onion John:

Amazon: Paperback

AbeBooks: View Choices on

Book Depository: Paperback | Hardcover


Family, Friendship

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