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Friday, September 26, 2014

An Upcoming Middle Grade Book You Don't Want To Miss: The Troubles of Johnny Cannon (review & giveaway)

It’s hard to create a unique character and plot these days. People might say, “Oh, a boarding school? You’re stealing from Harry Potter!” or “That character with a beloved dog is straight out of Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, and Because of Winn Dixie!” Well, folks, I’ve found an original voice that nobody can deny is something unique and fresh. Welcome to the world, Mr. Johnny Cannon!

The Troubles of Johnny Cannon by Isaiah Campbell will be released on October 14 from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Here's a summary:

Johnny Cannon’s got problems. Money is scarce. Martha Macker, the girl he likes, barely knows he’s alive. His best friend Willie is pretty great, but he also happens to be a black kid—which is not exactly acceptable in Cullman, Alabama. His big brother Tommy went to war and vanished. His Pa may be committing treason in their backyard. And just when it seems like things couldn’t get worse, an old family friend—or maybe enemy—appears and shakes everything up. How’s a kid like Johnny supposed to get himself and his family out of a mess that’s stickier than molasses and twice as tangled as a spiderweb?

What we want more than anything as readers is to feel like we’re in the capable hands of a storyteller—to be swept into another world naturally and vividly. Campbell has the gift of a natural storyteller and a main character with a voice that caused Newbery medalist Richard Peck to describe The Troubles of Johnny Cannon like this: 

"A boy with a highly original voice winces his way into the bewildering world of adults during a neglected moment in American history."

Campbell’s characters are flawed, which is where the authenticity comes in. He’s also not afraid to address the more shameful parts of our past because these things are our past and by addressing them, young readers will get an important reminder of historical injustices and maybe even internally compare them to the injustices that they still see around them in today’s world. It’s not easy to read about things like racism, but I would argue that the most difficult scenes to read in a book are often the ones that stay with us—that touch us deeply and leave a mark.



One of the most amazing things to me is that Campbell manages to develop deep and sensitive subject matter while he weaves a rollicking tale with twists, turns, friendship, and troubles galore. Holy excitement, Batman! This novel’s got it all. I won’t spoil the incredible ending, but I’ll tell you this—Johnny Cannon is a legend in the making. There’s already a sequel scheduled to come out next year, so you better hurry up and buy the first one now!




I believe in this book so much that I’m going to pre-order a copy for one lucky person leaving a comment. I’ll announce a winner on Friday, October 3.UPDATE: The winner is Linda Baie!


Any favorite character voices among books you've read? Let me know in the comments!

29 comments:

  1. This sounds fantastic. Racism is a hard topic, but one I think we need to continue to grapple with, because it certainly isn't gone. Some of my favorite books explore racism, such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Paradise (although Toni Morrison is NOT kid lit.)
    A favorite character voice I've recently read is Ted from The London Eye Mystery. Ted's brain "runs on a different operating system", but that doesn't stop him from solving the mystery of his disappearing cousin.
    Don't enter me in the giveaway, since I just won. Thanks for the review, though.

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    1. I'll have to look into The London Eye Mystery~ thanks for the rec!

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  2. This sounds great! I'd love to win a copy!
    I don't recall this story exactly, but I remember being really impressed with Isaiah's writing on WriteOnCon a few years back. (Gosh, all the good writers hang out there, huh? :)

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  3. Actually, it sounds like Spider-Man to me.
    There's nothing new under the sun.

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  4. I'm reading Patrick Ness' The Knife of Letting Go and Todd is an amazing character voice as is his dog, who can speak. Wicked good book.

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    1. Patrick Ness is amazing~ haven't read that one yet, though. I will soon!

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  5. It sounds like a lot of fun! I'm currently reading GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE, which has a very unique, interesting voice. (And yes - Manchee the dog from CHAOS WALKING is amazing.)

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    1. I've heard so much about Grasshopper Jungle and it's on my TBR list~ you'll have to let me know your thoughts when you're done!

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  6. This looks like such a good book, and love that cover(MGs always have some of the best!). I really enjoyed The Luck Uglies, it had great voice and a super strong setting that felt like a character itself.

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    1. I adored The Luck Uglies and can't wait for the next installment :)

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  7. I haven't heard about this book, but now I have. Thanks for the great review, makes me want to run out to the nearest Indie.

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  8. Good voice is key in MG. Have just been thinking on Harriet the Spy! Good voice, unique character! Will be sure to watch for out for Johnny!

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    1. Yes, Harriet! She's got a very unique voice/perspective, for sure :)

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  9. Sounds like a wonderful book! I'm deluged with reading right now, so reluctantly I'll decline to be in the draw. Isn't it great to discover a new favourite series?

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  10. This sounds fantastic! I love boy books with adventure and mystery. Thanks for the review - and I'll have to recommend to my boy!

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    1. Thanks, Amy! Hope he likes it if he reads it :)

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