Melonhead

Melonhead

by de Guzman, Michael Guzman
     
 

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A road novel for young readers

Twelve-year-old Sidney T. Mellon has an unfortunate name considering that his head is round and much too large for his body, his red hair stands straight up in a long crew cut, and his expression is perpetually flushed. A cantaloupe is what usually comes to mind. So does the nickname Melonhead.

What chance does

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Overview

A road novel for young readers

Twelve-year-old Sidney T. Mellon has an unfortunate name considering that his head is round and much too large for his body, his red hair stands straight up in a long crew cut, and his expression is perpetually flushed. A cantaloupe is what usually comes to mind. So does the nickname Melonhead.

What chance does Sidney have, looking like this, yo-yoing back and forth between Seattle and Los Angeles, living part of each year with each of his divorced parents? He is disconnected from both distracted parents; he is disconnected from his own distracted self. No wonder he gets on a bus in Los Angeles one day and heads for New York City, making up ridiculous names and stories about himself at the drop of a hat whenever he meets somebody new. But each of the people Sidney meets on his diesel-powered journey across America contributes something to his understanding of who he is and where he's going. What he will do when he gets there, what he will discover about the unhappiness in his life, he has no idea. He just knows that he has to find out.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Teleplay writer de Guzman's polished first novel for children centers on 12-year-old Sidney Mellon, whose uncommonly large head and unfortunate name earn him the eponymous moniker. After being bounced between Los Angeles, home of his unsuccessful, self-centered salesman father, and Seattle, where his weak-willed mother won't stand up to her bullying second husband, Sidney decides to run away. Traveling cross-country by bus, he fabricates a series of aliases (Nestor Beachnut, Edsel Bellringer, Larry Luckman) and aspirations (to become a circus clown, actor, jockey). These he shares with the idiosyncratic characters he meets, among them a 101-year-old Native American on a mission to a pawn shop to retrieve a piece of turquoise that once belonged to his mother, a Pennsylvania couple intent on abducting him to replace their dead son, and an Irish man dying of prostate cancer. Beneath the surface eccentricities, Sidney's quest to find a home for himself has strong emotional resonance. The most poignant moments occur when Sidney, alone, mulls things over; sitting at a restaurant counter, for example, he muses that he isn't "particularly happy" about being on his own, "but he wasn't sure he knew what happiness was anyway." Young readers whose own problems seem, like Sidney's head, too large to bear will identify with this unlikely hero. Ages 10-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
VOYA
When his parents divorced, six-year-old Sidney Mellon was unable to respond as the judge asked him with which parent he preferred to live. Now twelve and unhappy living in Seattle with his mother, abusive stepfather, and bullying older stepbrother, he frequently commutes to visit his amiable but irresponsible father in Los Angeles. Although both parents love Sidney, neither can provide him a good home. Moreover, Sidney is handicapped by his grotesque appearance with an extremely large, round head atop a scrawny neck and pale skin and bright red hair that sticks straight up. Strangers stare at him, and even kids who do not know his unfortunate surname call him "Melonhead." After an unscheduled forced visitation to his father following an ugly dispute with his stepfather, Sidney takes a bus trip to the East Coast instead of returning. He has no clear plans but knows that he needs to somehow change his life. On his cross-country odyssey, Sidney makes up new names and stories about himself as he interacts with a variety of fellow travelers and locals. Sidney suddenly departs the bus when he realizes that it has stopped in his grandmother's town. Although inconvenienced by Sidney's unexpected arrival, gruff, independent grandmother Alice manages to connect with him in a way that enables him to say, finally, where he wants to live. This novel is veteran television movie scriptwriter De Guzman's first young adult offering. In it, he creates a vivid and memorable character whose painful self-awareness and stubborn refusal to settle for the poor options that his parents have offered him will resonate with readers. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broadgeneral YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2002, Farrar Straus Giroux, 224p,
— Walter Hogan
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Sidney T. Mellon's enormous round head covered in red hair, combined with a perpetually pale complexion, brings him unwelcome stares from strangers and taunts from bullies. The 12-year-old lives in Seattle with his mother, his emotionally abusive stepfather, and his cruel stepbrother. His mom is too manipulated by her husband to give her son the support he needs. De Guzman's depiction of these dysfunctional family dynamics is outstanding. Sidney spends part of his time with his father in Los Angeles but the man has little ambition for anything, including being a dad. Sidney decides to take a bus trip across the country to get as far away as possible from his parents and stepfather, inventing several identities for himself on his journey. He encounters a host of odd, memorable characters, including a man dying of cancer who picks his pocket and a couple who tries to adopt him. In New York City, he is mugged and beaten by a gang of kids. Sidney then heads for Boston but impulsively gets off in the town where his grandmother lives. At first she is annoyed at him for upsetting her routine, but the two develop a deep emotional bond that both discover has been missing from their lives. Melonhead is a poignant story of a disconnected boy searching for a place where he feels loved and wanted. At times emotionally wrenching, the story is also entertaining and ultimately satisfying. Readers will identify with Sidney's emotional struggles and succumb to his charm.-Edward Sullivan, White Pine School, TN Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A 12-year-old takes a long bus trip to self-discovery in this wry, winning debut. Being shuttled between a pair of divorced, left-coast loser parents, Sidney T. Mellon Jr.-inevitably dubbed "Melonhead" by peers for his outsized noggin-feels like a permanent guest, but when his mother's abusive husband announces the horrifying intention to adopt him, Sidney scrapes together the cash to buy an L.A.-to-New York bus ticket, and hares off. Along the way, he meets Moses Longfellow, a Jewish Navajo centenarian, Mona Lipp, a kindly, one-legged barfly, and other not-quite-down-home characters, each of whom leaves him a little wiser in the ways of the world. Displaying great resilience, a streak of heroism, and a wonderful talent for inventing names-Waldo Smeely, Nestor Beachnut, Busby Spackle, to mention but a few-and fake life stories to go along with them, Sidney makes his way to New York, where he finds both wonder and pain, but not journey's end. Happily, de Guzman provides Sidney with an appropriately quirky alternative caregiver at the end: a grandmother who's about as affectionate as a shark, but can at least provide more safety and stability than either parent. Here's a ride worth taking, not so much for its destination as for the characters-and insights-gathered along the way. (Fiction. 11-13)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780374349448
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
10/28/2002
Edition description:
1ST
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Meet the Author

Michael de Guzman worked for over twenty years as a scriptwriter of television movies; Caroline?, his teleplay of E. L. Konigsburg's Father's Arcane Daughter, was nominated for an Emmy in 1990. Melonhead is his first novel for children. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

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