Book Review: Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes


Rereading my 100 Favorite Books: #57

Author: Esther Forbes
Title: Johnny Tremain
Publication Info: 0395900115
ISBN: Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1998.

Summary/Review: Having listed my 100 Favorite Books of All Time, I want to make the effort to reread these books and see if my opinion changes for better or worse. Instead of reading these by rank I’m going to start by going way back and reading a book I last read 25 years ago.  I was in 7th grade and Johnny Tremain, a story about a boy in Boston during the American Revolution won me over.

So how does it stand up?  I remembered the basic plot well – Johnny is a promising silversmith apprentice, he burns his hand while working on the sabbath, loses his position, befriends another apprentice in the printing trade, and gets involved in revolutionary activities.  Other things I didn’t remember as well such as how much of an arrogant tool Johnny is at the start of the novel and his injury is a great humbling.

Despite this obvious moralistic tone, I think the novel holds up well.  Esther Forbes has a keen sense for colonial Boston and its people and doesn’t make any grave errors in historical accuracy.  The story has a good mix of adventure, inspiration, and thoughtfulness and a whole lot more moral ambiguity than I’d expect of a children’s book about the American Revolution written almost 70 years ago.

Recommended books: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation by M.T. Andersen
Rating: *****

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