I zipped through Joseph Krumgold's Onion John while previewing materials for potential lesson plans relating to the theme of fatherhood two years ago. The reconciliation of a father and son is the focus of the novel. Here is what I wrote about it in the annotated list of resources for the paper:
"Boy befriends a homeless man in small town New Jersey. Boy is the only person who can understand the man through his speech impediment. Father objects but later mellows and stops pressuring boy to become an engineer. Boy expresses admiration for father. Homeless man goes away. Seems dated and ending is too pat."
To be fair, my reading was cursory and I might have gotten more out of the book if I had decided to focus on it for use in my lesson plans. I remember thinking that a present-day Newbery author or reviewer would probably be more concerned about showing the boy's growing understanding of the issues of homelessness.
I wished Krumgold had done a better job of tying up the loose end regarding the eventual fate of Onion John. Apparently, the homeless man simply goes on to live in a different place and the boy goes on with his life. I suppose I should recognize that as the reality of poverty and homelessness, and not expect that a contemporary version would provide a more satisfying resolution of that part of the story.