Book Review: Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

Synopsis

Johnny Tremain is an apprentice silversmith and his career has nowhere to go but up.  Already the most valuable apprentice in his workshop, Johny even begins to rival his master in skill.  However Johnny wants more, things in Boston are brewing and Johnny can feel it in the air.  It’s 1773 and the Sons of Liberty and British regulars occupying the city are clashing at every opportunity, change is in the air, fresh and smelling of freedom.  On top of that, new revelations and old secrets surrounding the mysterious origin of Johnny’s family begin to resurface and the young silversmith is willing to do anything to get to the bottom of it.  All around him, Johnny sees people making choices, carrying secrets; everyone is somehow caught up in the tumultuous activities that are pulling not just Boston, but all of the American Colonies, closer and closer into conflict with King George.  As Johnny gets pulled deeper into the conflict he must question everything, his trade, his family, and his identity.  

Review

Johnny Tremain can take its place without question on the list of best historical fictions ever written.  It encapsulates the thrilling years leading up to the Boston Tea Party and Battle of Lexington, bringing historic figures like James Otis, John Hancock and John and Samuel Adams to life with perfect clarity.  The setting and characters are realistic, compelling, and relatable and the plot is fascinating and full of twists.  Without a doubt, it is the best historical fiction written about the American Revolution; not only does it bring to light the events and historical figures of the era as a main element of the plot, but it also has an independent and completely fascinating plot line that runs parallel to the historical events. The character of Johnny is particularly riveting.   Although advertised as a “children’s classic” the book in content and volume is probably more of a young adult read, with complicated plots and, as an older book, language that might be difficult for beginning readers to grasp.  I would highly recommend Johnny Tremain.  

  • Ages:  10-99
  • Awards: Newbery Medal
  • Pages: 320
  • Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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