Antof9's Reviews > Johnny Tremain

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
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Mar 09, 11

bookshelves: 2011-read, americana, couldn-t-put-it-down, faves, kidlit, liberry, made-me-cry, made-me-think, read-the-newberys
Read from February 20 to 21, 2011

I hardly know where to start this review. Through the entire second half of the book, I had three thoughts in my head:
1. The Paul Revere poem
2. a song I learned (probably in elementary school) that Google failed to find for me. Some of the lyrics are for the Yankees fought from behind the shrubs, and the trees and the whitewashed fences. But the talk of war in the English pubs didn't tell of such defenses. I can even sing that part, but can't remember any more of the song.
3. Every American History class (regardless of age) should start by reading this book. If they did, more children would be interesting in History. I swear.

I have to say, this book BLEW ME AWAY. I had no expectations at all for it, and frankly they were probably lower than even for a "normal" book, because we've had so many disappointments as we've "Read the Newberys". But this book puts me firmly back in the camp of the Newbery Committee, and I hope they don't disappoint me going forward. Truly, this was a most excellent book.

Quite possibly the only thing that surprised me in this entire book was smack in the middle of this passage:
"Mrs. Lyte doesn't sweep, you silly, not with her own fair hands. For one thing, she's dead, and for another, if she weren't she'd just snap her fingers and maids would come running -- in frilly starched caps. They'd curtsy and squeak,'Yes, ma'am,''No, ma'am,' and 'If it please you, ma'am.' Then Mrs. Lyte would say, 'You dirty sluts, look at that gold dust under the bed! I could write my name in the silver dust on the mirror over that mantel. Fetch your mops and rags, you bow-legged, cross-eyed, chattering monkeys.'"


I get it, of course, but I wish it didn't have the word "slut" in it.

I loved the history in this, I loved Johnny growing up, I loved Rab, I loved how very "boy" it was ... I just loved this book.

Things like this just caught me: "It was all right for Rab to talk. Rab was training with the armed forces. But what could Johnny do? Not much, it seemed to him, except be bored to death for his country."

The part about Billy Dawes, who could impersonate anyone, and his wife broke my heart. I think this book was so meaningful because even though it was fiction, we know that this (time) actually happened. These things happened. Wives said goodbye to their husbands, sending them off to go through the city gates in hopes that the smell of rum and good acting skills would let them through to warn the minutemen. This is the real history of our country and the real tea party.

Last thoughts: I really like the name Isannah. Too bad I didn't like her. And I'd love to know what a British friend would say about this book -- would they like it as much as I? And finally, I want to own a copy of this book. It's that good.

March 9, 2011: edited to add the link to this reading of the Longfellow poem. One of the other Newbery girls found it, and for some reason, I really liked it!
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Reading Progress

02/20/2011 page 98
32.0% "We're up to 1944 in the Read the Newberys project. And they're getting good!" 5 comments

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Virginia (new)

Virginia Hill I will look for your review of this one. I've had this on the list of books I want my daughter to read for years. She's most interested in fantasy and mythology these days. I don't want her to lose sight of the benefits reading about regular humans. ;)


Antof9 Virginia - I loved it! Hope you can get her to read it. But if not; it can wait. I first read it when I was 44 - she'll come around :)


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