Set in Toronto 1970, just as the FLQ crisis emerges to shake an innocent country, eleven year old Johnny Wong uncovers an underbelly to his tight, downtown neighbourhood. He shares a room with his Chinese immigrant mother in a neighbourhood of American draft dodgers and new Canadians. In a span of a few weeks his world seesaws. He is befriended by Rollie, one of the draft dodgers who takes on a fatherly and writing mentor role. Johnny’s mother is threatened by the “children’s warfare society.” Meany Ming, one of the characters by the rooming house is found murdered. He suspects the feline loving neighbour, the Catwoman. Inspired by an episode of Mannix, he tries to break into her house. Ultimately he is betrayed but he must act to save his family. He discovers a distant kinship with Jean, the son of one of the hostages kidnapped by the FLQ who have sent Canada into a crisis.
Poignant, insightful, and tinged with menace. Letters from Johnny deftly captures the confusion and hurt of eleven-year-old Johnny Wong as he grapples with loyalty, friendship, and murder close to home
Barbara Fradkin, Arthur Ellis Award finalist, author of Inspector Green, Amanda Doucette and Cedric O’Toole murder series
I love this book a lot. Its voice— Johnny Wong, Grade 5, 1970— is one we’ve never heard before, expressed, eventually, in letters to Leaf captain Dave Keon. There’s sports here, but don’t let that give you pause. “Letters from Johnny” is as much about growing up as a first-generation Canadian as it is Toronto in the 70s with its team, its Chinatown, its new cultures trying to be heard above the Protestant din.
Dave Bidini, musician, Rheostatics; publisher of West End Phoenix; author of Keon and Me
Wayne Ng has the uncanny knack of being able to project himself into a child’s head to tell readers the child’s story — not an easy feat. Johnny is an engaging character going through a rough patch in life and Wayne brings that to life with a voice that is both accurate and convincing.
Rick Blechta, award-winning author of the Pratt and Ellis series
Who knew that a Chinese-Canadian kid’s heartwarming letters to his hockey hero could so perfectly capture Canada in 1970? “Letters from Johnny,” takes us from the FLQ crisis and a shocking neighborhood crime, to the simple heartbreak of being a Maple Leafs fan. Wayne Ng brings us the world of Johnny Wong, as the 11 year-old pours out his fears, hopes, and dreams to his new pen-pal, Leafs legend Dave Keon.
Wayne Turmel, author, Acre's Bastard and Acre's Orphans
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 3 members
I'm not sure who the target audience this book is for in terms of age, but I found it very interesting since I'm an child of immigrants in Toronto and I also love the Leafs. I enjoyed the history lesson about the FLQ crisis and that I could recognize specific areas in Toronto. Definitely an interesting read.