Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
Recommended for: Ages 10 to Adult
Rating: PG (injuries and some war)
A story filled with danger and excitement, Johnny Tremain tells of the turbulent, passionate times in Boston just before the Revolutionary War. Johnny, a young apprentice silversmith, is caught up in a dramatic involvement with James Otis, John Hancock, and John and Samuel Adams in the exciting currents and undercurrents that were to lead to the Boston Tea Party and the Battle of Lexington--and finally, a touching resolution of Johnny's personal life.
Johnny Tremain is historical fiction at its best, portraying Revolutionary Boston as a living drama, through the shrewd eyes of an observant boy.
Reading reviews of Johnny Tremain, I've come to realize that people either love it or hate it. I personally don't understand how anyone could hate it. Because, well, I would say Johnny Tremain is one of, if not the, top favorite ever historical fiction book I've read.
First off, I love that it's about the American Revolution. I just love that period of history. It is so important to our country, and so many amazing things happened. This book incorporates many of those, like the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere's Ride, the battle of Lexington and Concord, as well as historical figures from John Hancock to Paul Revere. Even just taking this aspect alone, Johnny Tremain is an amazing book. Who wouldn't want to experience the events of the American Revolution like this?
But the awesomeness doesn't stop there. These characters. They are just so amazing, and so realistic. Johnny has a positive character arc to follow throughout the book. His pride is a problem, and he has to suffer the consequences. He's stubborn, but knows what's right, even though sometimes his pride gets in the way. And his past is one that has to be revealed. Rab is a good young man. He's humble and patriotic, determined to fight for freedom so "that a man can stand up." I'm also rather partial to Cilla Lapham. She cares about people, but she's not afraid to speak her mind if it becomes necessary, in spite of being shy. She can be silly at times, "I like being silly." I feel sorry for her when Johnny snubs her, but she knows how to throw it right back at him. (She has three sisters, Dorcas, Madge, and Isannah. The Disney movie cuts them all out, which in turn cuts out more than half of the story. The book is way better.) And I love to see how the different relationships between the characters develop throughout the story.
The personal stories of the characters are so skillfully intertwined with that of America. It's amazing how it works. It's not a separate story simply set in Revolutionary Boston that could have been set somewhere else, nor is it a story only about the Revolution. It is a beautiful whole, and one without the other would not work at all.
Johnny Tremain is very well written. It won a Newbery in the 40s, so I think it's safe to assume it is, even had I not read it and fully believed that. It really pulls you in and gets you to experience everything along with the characters. I've felt the sadness that comes with some parts of the story, the injustices, the humor, the pain. It's all there. It's my favorite Revolutionary War story for sure. Because despite their personal struggles, they all know that independence is important. That it's worth fighting for. That it's worth dying for. And people did.
"Hundreds would die, but not the thing they died for.
" 'A man can stand up...' "