Johnny Tremain, a young apprentice silversmith, is caught up in the danger and excitement of 1775 Boston, just before the Revolutionary War. But even more gripping than living through the drama of Revolutionary Boston is the important discovery Johnny makes in his own life.
Esther Forbes was born in Westboro, Massachusetts in 1891, as the youngest of five children. Her family roots can be traced back to 1600s America; one of her great-uncles was the great historical figure and leader of the Sons of Liberty, Sam Adams. Her father was a probate judge in Worcester and her mother, a writer of New England reference books. Both her parents were historical enthusiasts.
Even as a little child, Forbes displayed an affinity for writing. Her academic work, however, was not spectacular, except for a few writing classes. After finishing high school, she took classes at the Worcester Art Museum and Boston University, and later, Bradford Academy, a junior college. She then followed her sister to the University of Wisconsin where Forbes wrote extensively for the Wisconsin Literary Magazine. After developing her writing skills, she returned to Massachusetts where she began working for Boston's Houghton Mifflin. As a reader of manuscripts, Forbes used this experience to advance her own writing career. Her first novel, O Genteel Lady! was published in 1926 to critical praise. With its selection by the newly formed Book-of-the-Month Club, the novel gained popular appeal as well. That year, Forbes also married Albert L. Hoskins, Jr., a Harvard Law School student.
As Forbes continued to write and gain notoriety, her marriage suffered because her husband disapproved of her career. They divorced in 1933. After several other novels, Forbes began her research of Paul Revere with her mother, who was then in her mid-eighties. When the historical biography, Paul Revere and the World He Lived In won the Pulitzer Prize in History, Forbes recognized her mother's immense contributions. During the process of researching Paul Revere, Forbes became fascinated with the large role young apprentices played in the war. Thus, she wrote Johnny Tremain, a historical novel of a young boy growing up in the time of the Revolutionary War. With poignant character development and a keen sense of history, it contained the elements for lasting popularity. It was published as "A Novel for Old and Young." In 1944, it won the Newberry Award, the top award for children's literature and became an instant children's classic. Forbes continued to turn out award winning books, most notably, The Running of the Tide, which was commissioned as a movie but never filmed. While working on a book about witchcraft in seventeenth-century Massachusetts, she died in 1967 of rheumatic heart disease.
Forbes literary achievements, awards, and recognition speak for themselves in regards her place in letters. Johnny Tremain is still read widely in schools and its popularity makes it one of the few lasting classics of American children literature.
Probably the greatest book ever written, by both man and child, woman and other writing entity, Johnny Tremain tells the story of a young genius who becomes a silversmith and burns the crappin' hell out of his hand. He's always embarrassed by his sort of melty hand and keeps it in his pockets or in his mother's pies and pie type dishes. One day he meets a girl named Cilla, Priscilla for long, who loves him despite for his sick melt-hand. Paul Bunyan or John Tubbers or whichever is the name of that early revolutionary explorer comes along riding on his horse one day, screaming about lobsters in coats and what not, alerting the town. Johnny Tremain sees the opportunity to finally use the sick curse God put on him by melting his hand to scare and/or kill the lobster coats. At this point Cilla is ridiculously in love with him and they kiss and he promises to make America into something great where even one-handed, pony-tailed dainty's like himself can work for a local paper or some other mid-level position at some kind of printing house. Cilla does everything in her power not to totally melt from her obsessive love for Johnny, not unlike the way his hand melted in the beginning of the story to foreshadow this supreme moment with Priscilla, "Cilla." After a long, juvenile make out session Johnny goes after the red lobster people waving his sickly paw around yelling something about a tea party or a cherry tree until the lobster guys are so mind crapped that they shoot themselves to death. Always being an opportunist, John Tubbers, or Wally Revere or whoever his name was then came along and took credit for killing everyone and even said he invented tea and teeth and apples and that Cilla was his wife and all other sorts of new America type bulltit lies, most of which none of the towns people believed. Anyhow, long story short, Johnny got his job back at the paper and married Cilla cause she was pregnant or something which was not totally unusual at this time for a fourteen year old girl. The book pretty much stops there except for a short epilogue about that crazy horse riding Paulie Reverendton, talking about how he ended up in some famous magazine cause some of his lying had paid off. Then he became the president for a while until he was assisinated by Johnny Tremain. An almost forgotten part of the book. In any case the book sprays out an unweilding amount of boy drama and hot girl sort of descriptions about the towns folk to the point that any nine to nineteen year old would easily form a wicked boy crush on both Johnny, Tubbers and Cilla, the latter being a girl-crush. Read it. You won't be dissapointed.
Great story about the Revolutionary War from the perspective of a silver smith. Many famous names from that time are in the story like John Hancock and Sam Adams. Johnny is an apprentice as a silver smith until an unfortunate accident maims his hands. He then becomes a newspaper courier when he gathers information for the Rebels. The Redcoats are trying to keep the people in line. This leads up to the first battle in the war.
There is one moment in the story I found very disturbing. Johnny slaps his friend who is a girl for something she says in front of a room of people. It's so hard that she falls down. Everyone else in the room simply laughs at her and the situation. It was very abusive and horrible. Johnny was a great character until that scene. I rated it high for the great portrayal of the time period, but that scene really bothered me. I guess that kind of thing did happen in that time period. The past can be fraught with horror.
I did enjoy this story. It is an interesting time in the states and our history. People were brave, harsh and rash. It really is amazing it has worked as well as it has. So glad I finally read this.
I know this is perceived as being a "kid's book", but I think that it is a story any adult would enjoy. Johnny Tremain takes place in pre-revolutionary Boston and is about a prideful (but slowly improving) boy who finds himself in the center of the independence fervor. Although I obviously cannot be sure of how accurate the descriptions are, I appreciated the book for doing such a great job at taking me back to the colonial era of American history. As Johnny Tremain struggled with adversity, his decisions, and his relationships with those around him - all the while inviting us into this exciting time - I could not help but become emotionally attached to his character and his story. I flat out loved this book.
If anyone who reads this review is a middle school teacher, or even a high school teacher, I highly recommend that you assign this book to your students. Not only is it an exciting way to get a view into an essential period of America's history but uses a relatively high level of language for being dubbed a children's book.
This was an amazing book. Beautiful, powerful, heartbreaking, healing, inspiring, courageous, sweet, and so much more. It's not my favorite historical fiction or Revolutionary War book, and not quite as amazing as the best I've read - but it comes incredibly close. It was so wonderful. It was very, very well-written, and incredibly powerful, in characterization, plot, writing style, historical accuracy, setting, and theme.
I really, really love Johnny. For so many reasons. He's a fabulous character and protagonist. I was eager to experience his character arc, since he started out so proud and selfish and angry. And though I knew it would be good, it still blew me away. It was wonderful to watch him grow - and heal. A paragraph in a review can't sum up his wonderful mix of determination and courage, tenderness and heart, laughter and anger, bitterness and sweetness. I felt each emotion along with him, from joy and victory, to despair and shame, to horror and grief. I was completely caught up in his story, his adventures, his hopes and defeats. And his character arc was fabulous in all its fascinating, well-developed threads and facets.
Every character in this book is incredibly vivid and real and alive. Johnny most of all, but each and every other character, as well. The author is one of those ones with the rare skill of choosing the exact right details of appearance, speech, and mannerisms to bring each person to life and make them walk off the page. I could see each and every character - and their appearances and movements - so clearly in my mind,down to the last detail, which only happens for me in those rare books with incredibly skillful characterization.
I loved how even the nicest characters were flawed, but still sweet. And how the nasty characters were despicable - but still human, understandable, and easy to sympathize with. Fictional characters and real-life historical figures were equally vivid and real. I felt like I knew them just as well as Johnny did. Paul Revere most of all, for me - he was my favorite - but all the others too. The author really made me care about them. One of my very favorite characters was Doctor Warren - another character who seemed so real and wonderful to me. I have a special place in my heart for kind and skilled medical characters, and I became more attached than I knew.
I really, really loved Johnny's friendship with Rab, and his friendship with Cilla. Of course I adored both Rab and Cilla so very much, though I adored Johnny far more. Cilla was so sweet and saucy, and I loved her grit and everything else. And Rab was so wonderful, almost perfect, but still flawed, which I love. I loved his calm and unflappability, his bravery and determination, his unfailing understanding, and the way he helped everyone he met - especially Johnny, for Rab was the one who helped him most to heal. And I both loved and was alarmed by his fierce, dark side that takes joy in a fight. I loved seeing them through Johnny's changing perspective, and of course, in addition to the individuals, I was caught up and invested in the highs and lows of both of Johnny's friendships with them. And then there were things with those characters that brought me heartbreak - one in particular, even though I had been spoiled and was prepared. It really tore me up, unsurprisingly. I love the understated way the author wrote things, and Johnny's understated reactions - so much more powerful than melodrama.
The author made the historical setting of pre-Revolution Boston come to life, just as much as the people involved. I felt I was there, and could see and smell and feel and hear it all. The tense, explosive air, like a powder keg about to burst into flame, was tangible. And even the peaceful, quiet moments in nature swept over me so vividly. I loved Johnny's up-close view of the events going on, and the men who made them happen - and Johnny's own vital part in those events. The author made me believe it really did happen that way - from the words of the Sons of Liberty in private, to Johnny's secret spying. It really helped me understand the events that started the war, and the opening battles. And all the intricate machinations that brought them about. Also, the author made both sides so human. She didn't shy away from honestly portraying the horrible violence on both sides - for the Patriots were often cruel and violent, as well as the British. I really appreciated how Johnny was bothered and even sickened by the violence - but he was courageous and strong and determined, and chose to face danger and the threat of death over and over, even though he was deeply afraid. I respect that more than someone who is unaffected by fear. In addition to portraying the callous, unfeeling, often extreme cruelty of the British Redcoats, the author showed their humanity, and the fact that they were often pleasant and even nice, rather than being a one-dimensional caricature of evil. I know that both sides of them were true to history, and I'm glad it was reflected in such a balanced and vivid way in the book.
I also really, really adore the author's portrayal of the cause of freedom and the brave men and women who fought and died for that cause - and were determined and ready and willing to do both. The author's writing makes me feel the hope and glory and fiery light of it, even as she portrays its messiness. It reminds me how proud I am of my country and of my ancestors who began this country and fought to make and keep it free, in the 1700s and over the last 250 years. I could say more on that part of the book, but it's hard to describe the poignancy and power of that aspect of it. "A man can stand up . . ."
Above all, this is a story of Johnny's heartbreak and hope and healing. And that is what I loved most about it. (Some spoilers ahead in this section.) I have a special place in my heart for characters who become crippled or disabled, and have to keep pressing on through life, and must heal in different ways. And I identify with that experience, since it's similar in some ways to my own - the characters who are physically crippled or have a physical disability often go through a similar experience to what I've been through with my own less-physical disability. I felt for Johnny even more than I would otherwise, because I've had my own life, dreams, hopes, and career seemingly destroyed by what I've been through. This book was especially well-written in that aspect of the story, as well as nearly every other way. It was heartwrenching to watch Johnny as he went through such a terrible event, and its aftermath. It was also interesting to watch a proud, selfish character go through that, and the character development was fabulous. I loved watching Johnny grow and change for the better because of it. And I was rooting for him to find life and healing and friendship. (More spoilers ahead.) Halfway through the book, the author intentionally gave me hope that his disability could be healed and reversed. I hoped for that so much, especially after the book portrayed his horrible expecting as a punishment for pride, and the just judgement of God - which seemed too legalistic to me. But that gave me hope, and I wanted the book to end with physical healing. I didn't know if it would, but I hoped it might. But later on, I realized that far more important than physical healing, Johnny needed healing in other ways - and he was being healed in those ways. And even more than that - even if he was never healed, and was crippled for life - Johnny and the reader both learned and saw that he could do great and meaningful and important things, even though he was unable to shoot a musket. And that's just as important than the hope of physical healing.
I was so satisfied by the ending, for the above reasons as well as many others. I really love bittersweet endings, and this one was perfect. I loved how it looked forward at the war and victory to come, and Johnny's new role in it - taking up the fight that others had already died for, to give birth to a new land of freedom that Johnny loved and believed in and belonged to.
I highly recommend this book to fans of quality young adult historical fiction, young teens and up. I'm so glad I tried this book again on the high recommendations of so many Goodreads friends, and one friend in particular. I enjoyed it from the beginning, but I thought for a while it would be 4 stars. It surprised me in that I enjoyed it more and more as the book went on - my rating grew higher, and the book quietly snuck up on me and became a favorite without me even realizing it.
I wouldn't recommend this to anyone below the age of a preteen, or to a sensitive preteen. It's best for young teens and up.
- Though understated and never graphic in the least, the book contains mention of violence, death, killing, execution, wounded soldiers, torture (e.g. tarring and feathering), peril/danger/threat of death, and other violence. - There's very mild swearing, limited to quite a few instances of h**l and d**n from British soldiers (never anyone else), and mention of other swearing and oaths that are omitted from the dialogue. - The book contains no sexual content, but some mild romantic elements. It talks briefly several times about people falling in love, marrying, and eloping, and includes arranged betrothals between two young teenagers and between a young girl and a middle-aged man. A young man enjoys dancing with girls, and he courts a girl he seems interested in. A young man is jealous of another young man paying attention to a girl he cares about. A teenaged boy has a crush on or infatuation with a beautiful woman in her twenties - he merely thinks she's beautiful - but it was handled well by the author, was never inappropriate, and was never anything that made me uncomfortable in the least.
All of this is very understated and appropriate but sometimes blunt.
I hated this book!!!! if u read this book you will become boring and old! this book pulls you into a wrinkled old time of so-called "action"!!! i could have found more action by going to a retirement home and watching the 900 year old people play bingo!!!!!! i of course was forced against my will to read this, otherwise, i wouldnt go spitting distance of it!!!! if you enjoyed this book (mr.flegar) then you are boring old!! do not read this thing! it's a plague! save yourselves!!!!!!!!
Definetly not the greatest book ever written. Pretty terrible actually!! Didn't like it at all. Expected it to be better and i'm very dissapointed. It was very hard to understand what was going on im each chapter and I would not recommend this book to anyone.
I have long believed that when I need some 'light' reading, good children's literature beats pulp fiction every time. This was entertaining, taught me a few new words (a graving dock) and gave light nourishment like a steaming bowl of soup. It satisfied and made me glad I read it when I was done.
Esther Forbes won me by page 55 when I read this sentence: 'Spiritually Johnny shrugged, determined to be neither over-impressed nor envious.'
I was struck by the autodidactical aspect of Johnny's practices. He is quick-witted and keeps his eyes and ears open. Things don't always go well for him, and he isn't a perfect goody-two-shoes. But his mind is keen and appreciative.
This quote captures his omnivorous reading appetite and made me laugh aloud:
'He spent his time [...] in learning to write with his left hand, and an orgy of reading. Mr. Lorne had a fine library. It was as if Johnny had been starved before and never known it. He read anything — everything. Bound back copies of the Observer, Paradise Lost, Robinson Crusoe — once more, for that was one of the books Rab had brought him to read in jail — Tom Jones and Locke's Essays on Human Understanding, Hutchinson's History of Massachusetts Baby, Chemical Essays, Spectator Papers, books on midwifery, and manners for young ladies, Pope's Illiad.'
I realize from reading other reviews that this is mandatory reading in some schools. What a way to damn a book. My copy was a gift which comes with enough pressure. And it was a hardback which meant expensive. With a gold award seal (read more pressure). And a blond boy hero on the cover (the ultimate thing to put me off). You press, I push.
I must have run out of books to steal from my older sister's room the day I did read Johnny Tremain. I was into forbidden reads or what I thought were at the time. Edward Albee. Books on female anatomy. Forbes was for children. It should have been an easy read. Then, he hurt his hand.
I haven't forgotten in all these years as if it had happened to me.
Certainly the first historic fiction I ever read because it was the first book I read myself. Whetted my appetite for more.
Having moved many times as a child, I was functionally illiterate. (I faked reading by memorizing the Dick and Jane stories at school.) My mother enrolled me in a summer reading program which taught phonics. (Contrary to the Wikipedia entry, most schools did not teach phonics in the mid-20th century.) Wow.
I picked Johnny Tremain (probably not this edition) from the base library at Anderson AFB, Guam, and read it myself.
Thus began a life-long love of history, historical fiction and books.
I hated this book when I read it in middle school (?). I had to choose a historical fiction book and I believe the librarian recommended this one. I found it terribly boring when I read it. Looking back now, I probably wasn't very open minded about reading something I wasn't really interested in, like most kids.
A tremendous contribution to children's literature. Forbes's engaging story reaps the benefit of her long dedication to the study of the period (presented in her Pulitzer Prize-winning adult biography of Paul Revere) - every detail is just right. For example, the lanterns are not placed in "Old North Church" but in Christ's Church, as at the time, "Old North Church" meant a different building, one that was near Paul Revere's house. The descriptions are exceptionally vivid, but at no point does the reader feel overwhelmed with historical information without purpose.
Forbes is particularly skilled at juggling multiple themes (there are about five or six significant subplots) and a large cast of characters. It's remarkable to see how many fictional people she has created and how well she describes them, making them feel real and individualistic. Even minor players are not given short shrift.
The writing is sophisticated and so is the emotional content. This is a masterwork for young readers. It should not be thrown in as part of a cursory introduction to the Revolutionary period, but should be introduced after the historical basics have been learned and understood. Then this subtle and detailed story can be used to add depth and nuance to the facts and dates. There are plenty of places where the reader can be surprised, but the historical outcome and how it was achieved should be known going into it.
Lynd Ward's illustrations are striking and distinctive. Only a few depict the protagonist. The rest give a good flavor of other aspects of the setting and story. The full color map on the endpapers is a bit hard to read, but could be useful. The full color wrap-around dust jacket is an essential piece that has unfortunately been lost in paperback editions. It's like a wall mural, packed with detail.
Forgot to mention that I started this with the audiobook. Narrator (Conlin, not Guidall) was mostly good but choked on two (fairly simple) pronunciations: cupola should start like cue not cup, and solder, which has no l, certainly in America).
I read this book with my family for school. It was really good, although the ending was bittersweet and there were a few loose ends I felt needed tying up.
I loved the little backstory/mystery with the Lytes (I think I'm spelling that right!). Cilla and Rab were my favorite characters, although I liked Johnny despite his imperfections. It was great to see him grow. Also, I loved Goblin (no, it's not silly to have a horse as your favorite character).
It was cool how some of the British were portrayed as normal people instead of devils. It felt more realistic. I mean, they're English. One or two of the soldiers have to be gentlemen, right? ;) Seriously, though, it was nice to see both sides portrayed as having faults.
There were also some characters I hated ... Isina and Mr. Lyte. I hated Miss Lyte for most of the book, only to be pleased with her in the end. I was like, "Okay, you've semi-redeemed yourself ..."
Overall, this was a great story I'd recommend to anyone 8+ (my nine- and twelve-year-old brothers loved it!) who enjoys historical adventures.
@#$! Pure @#$! Don't ever read this book for your own good. My entire class declared it a sin. We had to read it for class. I am sorry at my crude explanation, but it just had to be done. I think I can speak for everyone who had to read it at my school that it was awful and completely deserving of this one star review.
Considering that this was one of my favorite books when I was like eleven, I was astonished by how very little I actually remembered of it. Oh, I remembered the big things, like Johnny getting his hand ruined in a silversmithing accident, Paul Revere playing a central role, and that it involved a printing press a lot. There were a couple of random scenes that were still really familiar when I read them. But most of it, I'd forgotten. So it was a joy to discover it all over again, in a way!
I really enjoyed reading this aloud to my kids, and I think it brought a little slice of American history alive for them the way it did many years ago for me. I'm pretty sure this book is a big part of why I've been fascinated with the American Revolution for decades now.
Face palm. Ugh, yes! It's true - and I was homeschooled! Homeschoolers can get "F's" on a book report, you ask? Yes. Yes they can. And they do. And this is how. You stall. And stall and stall and stall. And you don't finish the book and you don't write the report and your mom gives you an “F”. Face palm. I was so dumb. I seriously don't know why I got it into my head that I didn't like the book, because I read it again and thoroughly enjoyed it!
Sigh ... laugh ... dumb.
Hopefully your kid won't be as silly! Because it's a fun way to learn aspects of our early American History. Johnny Tremain gets in on the action from the Boston Tea Party to the first shots fired at Lexington. The book really is great, and it won a Newbery Medal; and the Disney movie was a favorite as a kid.
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This is a really fun book to read from one of my favorite periods in history. I would have given it five stars, except for some very minor language and several worldview problems (stinks that so many good books have rotten worldviews). Other than that, the book was well written, the story is great, and the characters are very relatable to (at least for me). Lots of people I know read it for Rab, btw, since Johnny is really prideful and stuck up with himself, etc, especially towards the beginning. As Cilla put it, "When the meek inherit the earth, I doubt Johnny gets as much as one divod of sod!" He grows on you, though, as you read. Interesting note, the book was actually written by a historian, and this was her first peice of fiction. She did a great job at it, I'd say.
Just seeing this book cover makes me want to reread it all over again. Johnny Tremain is not just a bratty young man who has many lessons to learn. He is a young man growing up in the 18th century, as a new nation built on freedom is about to form. Can you tell that I absolutely love the Revolutionary period? Johnny's story and character development is intertwined with the fight for independence, and his friends (Oh, Rab, you are my favorite) are the best. The book is rife with heart-throbbing quotes, as well. It's so ... American. But also very human. And I love it. Perhaps rereading it would enable me to write a more detailed review, but some books just have the emotional excellence and don't need to be picked apart.
I can’t believe I never got the chance to read this classic school book. When I found out it was also an award-winning classic children’s book, I knew that I had to read it. This book was a surprisingly good read. Definitely glad I got to listen to the book and listen to the audiobook narrated by Grace Conlin. Definitely will keep the audiobook in my collection even if I have to return the book to the library. Would recommend parents read this book with their kids or give it as a gift. The action of an upcoming war and growth of the characters will draw everyone in.
This is one of my all-time favorite novels. I first fell in love with it when I was in grade school, then reread it a bunch of times, and now I have read it with some of my own children. We started it early in July, so our reading coincided with Independence Day.
When the novel begins, Johnny has his whole life figured out. He’s a brilliant silversmith apprentice, and when he’s a little older, he’ll take over his master’s silversmith business. The family will even throw in one of the granddaughters who is about his age for a wife. But an accident leads to a crippled hand, and Johnny is an orphan, so he doesn’t have a lot to fall back on. After things backfire with his extended family, he has to take what work he can—delivering papers for the Boston Observer. That brings him firmly into the Whig circle, and he soon becomes involved in things like the Boston Tea Party and spying on the British soldiers quartered in his city as events between the colonists and the British move closer and closer to war.
History, coming of age, character growth, spying, even a romantic interest. Is it any wonder I love this book?
Also, James Otis totally made me cry. I don’t remember him doing that before. The American Revolution wasn’t perfect. The Founding Fathers weren’t perfect. Our country is still working on that whole “all men are created equal” thing. But despite its imperfections, those ideas and principles were the best thing the world had ever seen. So many risks were taken and sacrifices made to give this country its start, and I love the way this novel brings that to life.
It’s a little different, revisiting the book several decades after first reading it. I’d forgotten how arrogant Johnny is in the beginning of the book. (But that sets him up for some great character growth over the course of the story.) I’d also forgotten that there are a few mild swear words in the book (something far more noticeable when reading the book aloud).
I remember loving this book years (or decades?) ago in elementary school and given that it is set in Boston on the eve of the Revolutionary War, it was a perfect choice for a family road trip from Boston to Cape Cod. The title character, Johnny Tremain, is an apprentice to a mediocre silver smith. Due to an accident while pouring silver on the Sabbath, Johnny's hand is maimed and he is forced to take a more menial job delivering the town newspaper. Through the newspaper Johnny gets swept up with the politics of the time and we see through his eyes many pivotal points that led to the Revolution including the Boston Tea Party (not at all related to our current Tea Party...), Paul Revere's famous ride and the first skirmish at Concord. More than just a chronicle of events, the story gave insight on both the thrill and anguish when a country decides to go to war. Highly recommended.