John R. Tunis Ellen Lewis Buell - Essay

Ellen Lewis Buell

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

No one writing for boys today can describe a touchdown or a home run with more photographic clarity than John Tunis, but [he] always has a good deal more to say than just sports talk. ["All-American" is] his most penetrating book on sport in American life….

As star halfback for the Academy team Ronald had his world in his hand until the day of the big game against the High School. Rivalry between the Academy and the High School went deeper than sport,… for there was real animus and scorn on both sides. When Ronald nearly killed a High School player in that game he was … deeply shocked at the callousness with which his friends (imbued with a snobbery which seems a little more obtuse than is entirely credible) dismissed the accident as of no importance since the victim was only a High School "tough" and a Jew.

Fumbling for a sense of values only dimly perceived, Ronald left the Academy and entered the High School…. [He] began to understand, bit by bit, a system which demanded self-discipline and self-reliance from the individual…. [Finally, he] started off on a crusade, the kind which can, and nearly did, tear a town and school in two—a youthful, gloriously quixotic crusade for justice which precipitated a climax in the best high-school tradition.

As a football story this has speed and tension. As a realistic story of the issues and values which underlie life in any American high school it offers meaty food for thought…. (p. 9)

Ellen Lewis Buell, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1942 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), November 1, 1942.