Johnny Tremain, Esther Forbes, 1943, Newbery Medal Winner
In honor of Independence Day, I wanted to post my review of this well-know book. Unfortunately, it seems to have fallen from favor in recent years, and I hope to encourage folks to enjoy it again.
I read this book for the first time many years ago. I enjoyed it then, and I thoroughly enjoyed it when I read it again recently.
I have heard others describe this book as boring, and perhaps that is because Esther Forbes’ descriptions are lengthy and detailed. The time in which she wrote valued descriptions in literature. But I was awed by her skill with words and history. Her writing immediately drew me into her setting. I laughed many times at her subtle humor, and as I read, I felt as if she were telling a story she herself had witnessed. Her characters were intricately developed and life-like. Her ability to fully color her story’s people was phenomenal.
Johnny, as the main character, is a pure pleasure to watch grow from a likeable, gifted, arrogant, self-centered fourteen-year-old boy into a sobered, more thoughtful, still arrogant young man. His life in Boston as the Revolutionary War approached is fascinatingly chronicled. His thoughts and feelings about the people in his life are touchingly complex. British-occupied Boston in the 1770’s is a very interesting setting in which to explore the complicated reactions a young man has to an enemy he is beginning to know and appreciate as individuals.
I think this book has value on several levels. It is a superb example of masterfully written children’s literature. The story is plain-old interesting. It offers pointed observations and powerful lessons in human nature. And its Revolutionary War setting is an unforgettable history lesson.
Read this book. Read it to your kids. It’s worth every minute.
I noticed that Esther Forbes won a Pulitzer Prize for her book Paul Revere and the World He lived In. Re-reading Johnny Tremain has made me put Paul Revere at the top of my want-to-read list.