Bonk, John J.
Bonk, John J.
Male. Education: College graduate.
Author. Has worked as a singer, actor, and tap dancer in New York and around the world.
Author of the Month, Highlights, 2004.
Dustin Grubbs: One-Man Show, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2005.
Dustin Grubbs: Take Two!, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor of poems and short stories to periodicals, including Highlights, Cricket, Cobblestone, Pockets, and Dramatics.
John J. Bonk enjoyed a lengthy career in the arts before becoming an author of books for middle-grade readers. A former singer, dancer, and actor with a focus on musical comedy, he has performed on stage in New York City and in venues throughout the world. Bonk's interest in acting and performing blossomed in his elementary school years and sustained him throughout adulthood. "Growing up in Chicago, Illinois, all I ever dreamt about was becoming an actor—just like the Dustin Grubbs character I would come to create," he commented on his home page.
Dustin, the star of two books by Bonk, is an eleven-year-old, sixth-grade boy with a flair for drama and the urge to perform in a school that sets a lower priority for the arts than on sports and other activities. In Dustin Grubbs: One-Man Show, Dustin lands the starring role in the school play, but the performances keep getting interrupted by minor crises. Meanwhile, Dustin's life is complicated by his comedian father, who leaves the family for Chicago to pursue his dream, and his non-supportive mother. When he gets the chance to act with his favorite child star, Jeremy Wilder, however, Dustin learns that real people versus those in the world of television and film are not at all the same. "Bonk must have had a wonderful time writing this story," mused Booklist reviewer Chris Sherman. Rachael Vilmar, writing in School Library Journal, called Dustin "an eminently likable narrator" and concluded that the story's "fast pace and good-natured humor will appeal to a wide range of readers."
Dustin Grubbs: Take Two! finds Dustin trying out for the lead role in the school musical Oliver!, even though he possesses no discernible musical talent. Bonk writes about Dustin's problems in juggling school, his acting desires, and his problems with his separated parents, allowing his young hero to come out victorious in the end. Mary Jean Smith, writing in School Library Journal, appreciated that the story has "believable characters, witty conversations, and a satisfying conclusion."
"I suppose I fell into writing accidentally," Bonk once stated. "I was working in an office job and happened to be transcribing an audio broadcast of children's book writers reading their work. Some of it was fantastic stuff and I thought, ‘Wow. I wonder if I could do that?’ So I started experimenting with writing poems and sending them to magazines. When some were actually accepted for publication, it fueled my fire. Then I segued to short stories, took a few writing classes, and began working on my first full-length novel.
"It sounds cliché, but reading great middle-grade and young-adult novels really does influence me a lot. I'm also influenced by pretty much everything around me—people, places, things. I'm always jotting down notes. Stuff I see or overhear on the street, in elevators, on the subway. I never know how or when I'm going to use this stuff, but I'm always adding to my bag of tricks.
"I prefer writing in the morning when my brain is fresh, but I don't necessarily have a strict timeline or daily page quota. I do like to have a rough outline of the entire novel before I begin, but it's very loose. I'm always coming up with new ideas to incorporate into my novels, which would be impossible to think of in advance. Revising, revising, revising is essential for me. I also belong to an excellent online critique group, which I've been with for years. We have brainstorming sessions, shape each other's work, share much needed support and encouragement, and laugh our heads off. We're also great friends.
"I think the most surprising thing I learned as a writer was that I actually could write in the first place. I'd been immersed in every other aspect of the creative arts my entire life—singing, dancing, acting, mime, drawing, painting, piano, clarinet, flute—and writing was the one thing that had never even occurred to me. So I guess one should never be afraid to try new things (except for maybe the mime thing).
"My first book, Dustin Grubbs: One-Man Show, is my favorite.
"I hope people will laugh out loud when they read my books. (Unless I happen to write an epic drama someday. Not likely.) I always do like including a few tugs at the heartstrings as well, but for me the big thing will always be humor. It's in my DNA. So if my words could elicit genuine, unchecked belly-laughs from kids—and adults, too—then I've done my job!"
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, December 1, 2005, Chris Sherman, review of Dustin Grubbs: One-Man Show, p. 45.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2006, review of Dustin Grubbs: Take Two!, p. 947.
School Library Journal, December, 2005, Rachael Vilmar, review of Dustin Grubbs: One-Man Show, p. 140; February, 2007, Mary Jean Smith, review of Dustin Grubbs: Take Two!, p. 115.
Armchair Interviews,http://www.armchairinterviews.com/ (April 2, 2008), Guy Wegener, review of Dustin Grubbs: One-Man Show.
BookLoons,http://www.bookloons.com/ (April 2, 2008), Lyn Seippel, review of Dustin Grubbs: Take Two!
John J. Bonk Home Page,http://www.johnjbonk.com (April 2, 2008).