Like many of his other early offerings, Tiltawhirl John (released 1977) borrows significantly from Gary Paulsen's own adolescent experiences and refuses to sugarcoat the horrors of life for teen readers. Tiltawhirl John explores both outcomes of a kid entering the real world, and its gritty authenticism and honest voice set the gold standard for Gary Paulsen's early novels, suggesting the profound wisdom and visceral power of later works such as Hatchet, The Rifle, and Paintings from the Cave: Three Novellas. In the aftermath of what went down with Tiltawhirl John and the other carnies, our narrator and main character clearly doesn't know what to make of it. That whole business of getting smarter is like the hammer, and it comes to me now and then that it might be better just to stay dumb and not get hit with the hammer." Tiltawhirl John, P. In the stupor of that first night he confesses everything to T-John, his twin brother Billy, and Wanda, but the carny folk don't turn him away. If he's interested in real work, not slavery masquerading as legit employment, T-John can offer him thirty-five dollars a week and bottomless carny food to help set up and operate the tiltawhirl and do other small jobs around the carnival. The kid found little hope and comfort in the chamber of horrors that was Elsner's beet farm, except for a Mexican teen named Maria who did her best to soothe his broken body after Elsner did his worst to him, singing softly with his head cradled in her lap, but he finds better here among the carnival folk. 10 This is what he envisioned when he forsook his uncle's eighty acres to start a new life: a connection to forthright people, the opportunity to work hard for decent money so he could save up and have options for the future. T-John and his twin are good bosses who run their carny scams adroitly, and they invite their new teen employee into the tent. Even if it works out all right in the end, it is the worst thing when it first happensjust the way things that seem good for you can turn out bad, bad as dirt." Tiltawhirl John, P. 115 It's hard to get your mind right when you've been through an ordeal like the kid in this book survives at Karl Elsner's beet farm. I wanted to remember enough of Elsner and the beet farm so it would never happen to me again, but I wanted to forget enough so the pain would go away." Billy and our young beet farmer each speak and think a lot of truth, and it's suffused throughout Tiltawhirl John for the reader who desires to learn and benefit from it. This book is a wonderful teacher of the messy realities of life, a common praise of Gary Paulsen's writing. The narrator thinks back on the experiences of his sixteenth summer, now years behind him, and incredible as it seems with personalities as large as Karl Elsner, T-John, Wanda, Billy, and Tucker, they're all only distant echoes in his past, characters in a life that could have been but never really was. Maybe he's right, but I doubt it, because to say done is done is like saying you're supposed to forget all about what happened. It's one of those things that're awfully easy to say and very hard to do, and it's especially hard when what you're trying to forget is Tiltawhirl John and Wanda and Billy the geek and the beet farm... But I doubt it." Come on, we know this when we've lived a life of events and people who intensely shaped us and our worldview: it's impossible to forget them because they're part of who we are. Read Tiltawhirl John and then think it over yourself, for I can't imagine a thoughtful reader not being molded by this novel. Not every Gary Paulsen book astounds me, but Tiltawhirl John does the trick. Tiltawhirl John will alternately affirm and call into question ideas you hold about life, and that's what I expect from a quality teen novel.
I like the idea of a kid so sick of working on the farm that he runs off and becomes a carnie, but this book shows us a kid who finds that manual labor at the farm and scams at the carnival are equally boring. The problem is the book doesn't go from one extreme to another, like from boring to exciting, instead it goes from dullsville to the dullsville traveling show.
The title of my book is Tiltawhirl john. The Old man and Tiltawhirl john got beaten by this man name Elsner. Elsner is the farm owner and he beats the Old man And Tiltawhirl John. It started with Tiltawhirl John running away from home and finding the farm of beets. I like about the book is when he made new friends. My favorit part is whenhe went and got his money and hit Elsner in the face.
This novel is a story about a boy who lives in a small town on the farm.
Running away from home at the age of 14 and traveling with a carnival, Paulsen acquired a taste for adventure.