Melanie Soble's Reviews > My Brother Sam Is Dead

My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier
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's review
Sep 06, 2011

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bookshelves: read-for-libs-642
Read from September 06 to 07, 2011

1. This book would fall under the category of a junior book, historical fiction.
2. Set in the Revolutionary War, this book follows the life of Tim, a twelve year old boy whose family owned a tavern in Connecticut. His older brother Sam was a college student who took up arms on the side of the colonists. The story tells of his life and how the war changed his own sense of reality.
3. critique
a. As a Newberry winner, one of the strengths of this tale is the way in which the author goes into great emotional depth to get you to care about Tim. His world is so different from our own, but the author enables the reader to immerse himself into Tim’s world and really understand the emotions that he is dealing with. As a coming of age story, the reader will watch Tim grow up and become a man while dealing with a war that he does not understand.
b. At the beginning of the story, Tim is young and naive. He does not want his brother to go off to war and defy his father. Tim fights his brother when Sam takes the family gun. Tim begins to grow as the tale progresses. When his father takes him on the annual trip to do the trading, the pair are overrun by cowboys who ultimately take his father from him. At that point, Tim is forced to become the man of the house and grow up.
c. Tim’s voice at the beginning is young and whiny sounding. When he talks about his brother he said “it made me glad to have him come home, and I didn’t want him to get into a big fight with Father and spoil it” (p.9). He then says “I stood there confused and mixed up inside” (p.37). He was still a young child. He then grows up and becomes more mature in his emotions when his father was kidnapped by the cowboys. Even though he did not know what the fate was going to be, he decided that he would do what his father would want him to do. “One way or another he would be counting on me to get the wagon home – that’s for certain” (p.121). At this point, his attitude had shifted. Unfortunately, he had to grow up too much and became cynical toward the end of the tale.
4. a curriculum connection
This book is an interesting look at what life might have been like during the Revolutionary War. When we learn about it in classes, we can sometimes forget that it was probably an extremely confusing time for people who had to decide which side to be on. This book gives a good description about a specific scenario. I think that this book was pretty graphic in the details. I am unsure if I would have it as a classroom reading assignment.

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