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About The Book

“A boy with a highly original voice winces his way into the bewildering world of adults during a neglected moment in American history” (Newbery Medalist Richard Peck) in this heroic coming-of-age novel.

Johnny Cannon’s got problems. Money is scarce. Martha Macker, the girl he likes, barely knows he’s alive. His best friend Willie is pretty great, but he also happens to be a black kid—which is not exactly acceptable in Cullman, Alabama. His big brother Tommy went to war and vanished. His Pa may be committing treason in their backyard. And just when it seems like things couldn’t get worse, an old family friend—or maybe enemy—appears and shakes everything up. How’s a kid like Johnny supposed to get himself and his family out of a mess that’s stickier than molasses and twice as tangled as a spiderweb?

About The Author

Photograph by Eunhae Shin

Isaiah Campbell was born and bred in Texas, and spent his childhood reading a blend of Dickens, Dumas, and Stan Lee. He dreamed his whole life of becoming a writer. And also of being bitten by a radioactive spider. Unfortunately, only one dream has panned out. For fifteen years he taught and coached students in writing and the arts before he finally took his own advice and wrote The Troubles of Johnny Cannon and The Struggles of Johnny Cannon. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife, three children, and his sanity, although that may be moving out soon. He occasionally searches the classifieds for the bulk sale of spiders and uranium but hasn’t had any luck yet. Find him online at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (October 14, 2014)
  • Length: 304 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781481400053
  • Grades: 3 - 7
  • Ages: 8 - 12
  • Lexile ® 760L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®

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Raves and Reviews

"A boy with a highly original voice winces his way into the bewildering world of adults during a neglected moment in American history."

– Richard Peck, author of the Newbery Medal-winning A Year Down Yonder

The Troubles of Johnny Cannon is a gripping novel, filled with great characters and big ideas. Johnny Cannon is a touching, fascinating hero with a wonderfully original voice, and through him, Isaiah Campbell tells an engrossing tale set against the backdrop of both the Civil Rights movement and the Bay of Pigs Invasion. I don't wish any more troubles upon poor Johnny, but I wouldn't mind reading another few novels with him, either."

– Stuart Gibbs, author of Belly Up

"Isaiah Campbell has given us something special with The Troubles of Johnny Cannon—a story of humor, mystery, and heart, of courage and friendship and what it means to be family, all told in the unforgettable voice of Johnny Cannon himself—a hero you won’t soon forget. This is a book that made me laugh and think, and had me cheering for Johnny at every turn. An ambitious and exciting read."

– Claire Legrand

"Isaiah Campbell took me right to the heart of everything hopeful and harrowing about being a kid in a complicated 1960s world. He also made me laugh, starting on page one. The only trouble with The Troubles of Johnny Cannon is that the pages ran out at the end."

– Tim Federle, author of Better Nate Than Ever

"Johnny and Willie are well-drawn characters to care about, and Cullman's a large-enough world for them to live out their stories. Over-the-top fun."

– Kirkus Reviews

"A significant amount of historical events—including the Cuban missile crisis and race riots—are balanced by Johnny’s back-country, boyish point of view. A good choice for fans of historical fiction."

– School Library Journal

"While the story takes some implausible, larger-than-life turns, Campbell balances them with a sensitive, authentic look at racial conflict and attitudes in 1960s Alabama, filtered through Johnny’s distinctive attitude and voice."

– Publishers Weekly

"Debut author Campbell offers a refreshingly realistic protagonist who is living in a unique and important time in U.S. history...A book that addresses important historical events with tact and poignancy."

– Booklist

"Johnny’s witty, down-home narrative voice interrogates the racism of his classmates while maintaining a Huck Finn–like innocence with regard to its own, and his fascination with history as well as his own past provide a clever way of working in the complex backstory that led up to the Bay of Pigs, giving readers a real taste of what poverty, patriotism, and boyhood looked like in the early sixties in the South."


Awards and Honors

  • Kansas NEA Reading Circle List Junior Title
  • North Carolina Young Adult Book Award Nominee

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More books from this author: Isaiah Campbell