First, let me say that I dreaded this Newbery winner like no other before. I had heard that is was racist, I had heard that is is boring. A fantastic novel that came out this year Absolutely Almost, features a character who was being forced to read Johnny Tremain, but couldn’t get through it because it was too painful. To help him, his babysitter pasted a Johnny T cover on a Captain Underpants novel, and he pretended that he was reading Johnny T the whole time. That scene stuck with me, and I marked this book was one that wouldn’t be that fun.
Well, it surprised me. I found my self liking it, a lot in the beginning. I didn’t like Johnny T as a character that much. He thought he was the bee’s knees, and at first, it was gratifying for me to see his future come crashing down because of a maimed hand. I hoped that Johnny would grow as a character. I started sympathizing with him, and I found myself in the middle of a pretty good novel. I don’t know if Johnny ever did grow. I didn’t really like him as a character, ever. He was arrogant, even in the depths of poverty, he was racist (Forbes may have been too. I couldn’t really tell.) and in the end, when he decided to be romantic with her,(because he found out he was related to the girl he did like) he was very condescending to Cilla, a friend who had stuck with him through the worst of times. Then there’s the ending. The doctor is like, “Hey, by the way. This book is ending, and I think I can fix your hand and we can have a happy ending.” and Johnny is like, “Yeah. I’m so tough I don’t need anesthesia or anyone to hold me down.” and the doctor is like, “Yes you are Johnny, yes you are.” Still, structurally, it was a pretty sound novel, and I have students still reading it, so I guess I get the appeal.
I give it three Newbery pies.