Reflections In Hindsight

Grace in the Rearview Mirror…it's closer than it appears

  • Ephesians 4:29

    Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (NIV)

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Sunday Book Review: Johnny Tremain

Posted by elainemcooper on August 5, 2012

Posted by Elaine Marie Cooper

“Johnny Tremain”

When I was very small, I watched the Disney movie version of Johnny Tremain and the single memory that stands out in my mind is the tune from the song, “The Sons of Liberty.”

Now that I am an adult and study the American Revolution for my own historical fiction books, I decided it was time to read the original book called Johnny Tremain written in 1943 by Esther Forbes. I’m so glad that I did.

Although it is considered a novel for young adults, this older adult reader was highly caught up in the story about the young, pompous, and very talented silversmith who had his whole future changed in an instant when a work accident burned his hand. His entire life’s work came to a screeching halt. His transformation from immature braggadocio to patriotic spy was a realistic journey that taught me much about life in Boston just before the American Revolution.

Forbes’ characters are enchanting even when they are annoying, and this reader grew to appreciate all the hard-earned lessons in life that transformed Johnny into a mature, likeable fellow. Highly recommend!

Johnny Tremain won the Newberry Award in 1943.

I give Johnny Tremain: Five out of Five Reflections

About the Author

Esther Forbes (1891-1967) garnered a Newberry Medal and an enduring place in children’s literature with the publication of Johnny Tremain. Her adult novel, Paul Revere and the World He Lived In, won the Pulitzer Prize for history in 1942.

In an introduction to the 2011 version of Johnny Tremain written by Newberry Honor Winner, Gary D. Schmidt, Forbes was praised for her accomplishment of writing this novel based on her historical research. Forbes battled dyslexia and was, according to Schmidt, “not a novelist.” This book was published in the middle of our country fighting in World War II.

While her novel was set in the year 1775, she was writing with another purpose as well, said Schmidt.

“She is addressing a nation of young readers who are looking about at their nation at war. They know soldiers and sailors and pilots from their cities and neighborhoods, their churches and synagogues, their schools and town businesses—their families—who have died in the fight against the world’s darkest cruelty and oppression…Esther Forbes wants to say, ‘This is why we are fighting. This is what it means to stand against evil.’”

There are several one star reviews for this book at Amazon. As another reviewer who gave Johnny Tremain five stars pointed out, all the bad reviews were posted about the same time, perhaps by “disgruntled teens.”

To purchase Johnny Tremain at, click here. Also available on kindle.

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