Raising Arthur

Young Adult - Coming of Age
264 Pages
Reviewed on 08/04/2018
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Tracy Young for Readers' Favorite

Arthur Strohmeier shares his childhood in the beautifully written book, Raising Arthur by Will Sherwood. This is a tale of a young boy born to German immigrant parents at a time when it was not easy to be of German descent. His father was already in his late forties when Arthur entered this world and he lost his mother at an early age. Arthur and his brother, Bobby, were raised by people outside of the family as their father could not cope with them. Following this disruptive period, we accompany Arthur on the journey that is his adolescence. Latchkey kids, Arthur and Bobby entertain themselves and get into scrapes like any young boys do. The people they encounter and the places they visit are described beautifully and by the end of the book, you feel like you know Arthur and his family.

This is a great read. Raising Arthur by Will Sherwood is written honestly and without rancor about a childhood that some would consider unusual, to say the least. There is no “woe is me” attitude to his story and Raising Arthur made me laugh and cry in equal amounts. The characters in the book are described in a way that allows you to imagine you have met them, and the stories are interspersed with humor-filled sayings that sum up the situations perfectly. Having never visited the US, I especially loved the descriptions of the places Arthur and his family visited. This book has humor and pathos and even dramatic courtroom scenes, something for everyone. I would love to hear what happened to Arthur in his later life.

Ruffina Oserio

A fascinating coming of age story that also explores the world of childhood with its joys and perils, Raising Arthur by Will Sherwood is a book with a story and characters that remind most of us of who and what we once were—gripping in a nostalgic kind of way. The narrator takes the reader back to the childhood of Bobby and Arthur. Bobby is six and he enjoys playing pranks on his younger brother, Arthur, who is just four. There are interesting childhood adventures, their mother contracts tuberculosis and eventually dies, and the kids are raised by a number of families. When their father is able to take care of the kids, he indulges in alcohol, which makes him lose his job. He brings them to Northern California. It is here that Arthur meets a truck driver who has a great influence in his life. A trip to Texas becomes an adventure which introduces him to a romantic experience that transforms him, losing his virginity to Jaynie. After his return home, he joins the service, having missed a lot of school.

This is a great read, a story that combines humor with adventure to offer hefty doses of entertainment. The author paints a world that most readers will be familiar with, and I enjoyed his treatment of the themes of family, parenting, friendship, and adventure. We encounter ordinary kids who are forced to grow up pretty fast because of their mother’s untimely death and their father’s personal problems. The narrative is well done and the voice is light and engaging. The humor — both situational and verbal — comes across powerfully through the interactions between the kids as they explore each other’s worlds. For instance, here is a funny description of one of the characters: “Except for her Cadillac breasts, Jaynie’s tall, thin frame, and twenty-eight-years caused her to go unnoticed, but her frazzled hair, combined with her truck driver’s tough appearance, added drama to her demeanor.” I enjoyed the prose, and the author’s ability to weave elements of history into the story, like references to WWII. This is an engaging narrative, filled with humor and adventure. I enjoyed every bit of this book.

Mamta Madhavan

Arthur is born to Albert and Helene in 1939, around the time Germany invaded Poland. The family goes through a difficult phase after the loss of their mother, Helene. Albert tries his best to raise his sons, Bobby and Arthur, but his drinking habits always get in the way. The father moves with the boys to Sacramento, and while Bobby joins the Air Force, Arthur meets truck driver Big Ed Cunningham, who is kindhearted and his father’s drinking buddy. Ed convinces his father to let Arthur drive to Texas with him during the holidays. Arthur comes back late in time for school, but instead of continuing school, decides to join the Air Force as he felt it worked well for his brother Bob.

Raising Arthur by Will Sherwood speaks about the life of Arthur from his childhood where he is playing with his brother Bob and sister Glenna. The story chronicles the positive and negative memories; some blurred, some forgotten of Arthur’s growing up phase, his philatelic interest, his travels with Big Ed, and how he takes on the responsibility of his father once his brother Bob joins the Air Force. I like the way the author has sketched the characters in the story; each one stands out and makes lasting impressions with their individual traits, strong and memorable, on readers. Helene, Arthur’s mother, being German, a few German references have been thrown in here and there effectively. What makes this story tangible and gives a connectivity with readers is mainly because it is a fictionalized narrative of the author’s boyhood memories. The recollections of various events, time with family members, and the childhood memories make it an engaging read.