Monday, July 4, 2011

Johnny Tremain (1944)

This was a fun book, and so great for the 4th of July!  Set in Boston just before the Revolutionary War, Johnny Tremain gives a good flavor for life in Boston at the time.  We learn of the Patriots (Whigs) and Loyalists (Tories) and the political struggles leading up to the American Revolution. 

At the beginning of the book, Johnny Tremain works as an apprentice silversmith.  He is very talented as a silversmith, practically running the shop.  Through his pride, and the meanness of others, he suffers an accident that leaves him crippled in one of his hands, unable to do the work he loves.  In looking for work, he meets Rab, a kind young man who helps him find work and by not focusing on his crippled hand, enables him to also look past it and see that he is more than his disability.

Rab also introduces him to the ideas of the Patriots and the cause to which  they aspire.  Johnny begins delivering The Observer, a Patriot paper, to cities around Boston.  He becomes very good with his horse and when the Redcoats come to subdue the people of Boston, Johnny is able to spy on them when he delivers notes and through gossip among the stable boys.

Johnny rubs shoulders with the likes of Paul Revere, Sam Adams, John Adams and others.  He takes part in the Boston Tea Party and anxiously awaits the news from Lexington and Concord. 

Intertwined with the political turmoil, Johnny also experiences love, friendship, jealousy, family intrigue.  A good book to introduce children to the American Revolution and get them interested in history.

Here are some quotes I liked:

At one of the Sons of Liberty meetings, James Otis had a great speech in which he uses questions to draw out the answer to why they will fight.  I will shorten the passage considerably.

"'Sammy,' he said to Sam Adams, 'You were saying...We will fight...For what will we fight?'
'To free Boston from these infernal redcoats and...'
'No,' said Otis. 'That's not enough reason for going into a war....Why are we going to fight?  Why?'
'We will fight for the rights of Americans.  England cannot take our money away by taxes.'
'No, no.  For something more important than the pocketbooks of our American citizens.'
Rab said, 'For the rights of Englishmen--everywhere.'
'Why stop with Englishmen?' Otis was warming up.  'For men and women and children all over the world.  There shall be no more tyranny.  A handful of men cannot seize power over thousands.  A man shall choose who it is shall rule over him...The peasants of France, the serfs of Russia.  Because we fight, they shall see freedom like a new sun rising in the west.  Those natural rights God has given to every man, no matter how humble.  The battle we win over the worst in England shall benefit the best in England...So we hold up our torch and we will set it as a new sun to lighten a world...'" (p. 177-179)

Johnny talking to Mrs. Bessie:

"'How old are you Johnny?'
'And what's that--a boy or a man?'
He laughed.  'A boy in time of peace and a man in time of war.'" (p. 236-237)

Forbes, Esther.  Johnny Tremain. Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, 1943.

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