Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

Before I start, I have to come clean: before reading this book, all I could think about was this:

Marge: Bart, I'd like you to read this copy of ``Johnny Tremaine''. It's a book I read as a girl.
Bart: A book!? Pfffft.
Marge: I think you might like this. It's about a boy who goes to war. His hand is deformed in an accident.
Bart: Deformed? Why didn't you say so?They should call this book ``Johnny Deformed''!
(From The Simpsons.)

And then there is the time Peter Griffin of Family Guy was caught reading while intoxicated:

So that's what I was working with.

Johnny Tremain is a silversmith's apprentice in 1770s Boston. He's extremely talented...and extremely arrogant. Then his hand is injured in a silversmithing accident, and he is forced to find a new way of life. He befriends the nephew of a printer, who teachers him how to ride a horse - which comes in handy with the American Revolution right around the corner. Johnny quickly finds himself interacting with people like Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, and many other actual historical figures.

I was ready for the worst; the copy I was reading was old and the print was small-ish. But the story gets really exciting, and Esther Forbes has a really great way of keeping the action moving. I wanted to know what was going to happen to Johnny, even when I didn't like Johnny (he spends a lot of time trying to learn to control some of his worst habits). It's been awhile since I've studied American history so I only vaguely knew about the events they were describing (the specific details, that is), but that didn't really matter. It was a great read and one that would probably be enjoyed by any child looking for an exciting story with lots of action (as long as the edition looked a bit more relevant than the one above - the one I read - I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but...yeah). Of course, as with some pieces of historical fiction, the depiction of people of other races and ethnicities is not exactly sensitive, so there is that to consider, too.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Many Rides of Paul Revere by James Giblin
The Pox Party and The Kingdom on the Waves by M.T. Anderson

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