Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Book Review of Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

Name of Book: Johnny Tremain

Author: Esther Forbes

ISBN: 0-440-44250-8

Publisher: Bantam

Type of book: kid to young adult, revolutionary war, 1773-1775, Paul Revere, Adams, silversmith, a man can stand up for himself, Boston, Boston Tea Party

Year it was published: 1943


A story filled with danger and excitement, Johnny Tremain tells of the turbulent, passionate times in Boston just before the Revolutionary War. Johnny, a young apprentice silversmith, is caught up in a dramatic involvement with James Otis, John Hancock, and John and Samuel Adams. Johnny is swept along by hte powerful currents that will lead to the Boston Tea Party and the Battle of Lexington- and finally to an important discoveyr in Johnny's own life.

Johnny Tremain is historical fiction at its most gripping, portraying Revolutionary Boston as a living drama through the shrewd eyes of an observant boy.


Other characters besides Johnny Tremain seemed to be flat and remained so throughout the duration. Johnny has changed throughout the novel, from becoming an arrogant young boy to a less arrogant man who is ready to do everything he can for his country, including picking up a gun. Some things about Johnny didn't change, the fact that he seemed to have no respect for those who are different than he, that he teases girls all the time, and he hates Dove. I think I would have liked to know what happened to the characters throughout the Revolutionary War and how they all fared, but the author stops her narrative just as the war was beginning.


A man can stand up.


It was written in third person from Johnny's point of view. A lot was self explanatory and there wasn't much trouble in understanding what was going on, although for me at some points it was pretty boring. The author tries to be objective when it comes to both British and Americans, that is there were good people and there were bad people.

Author Information:

June 28, 1891 in Westborough, Massachusetts , The United States

August 12, 1967


Children's Books, Historical Fiction

About this author

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.


The beginning few chapters of the book were interesting and fascinating as we got a glimpse of Johnny's psychology and mind process. Unfortunately as the book does go on, it loses steam and force, that is for me it no longer is interesting but instead becomes boring and somewhat predictable. Like I'm sure all young adults, I was forced to read the book when I was in middle school and I didn't like it. (Seriously speaking, if we have to read some books, then at least give us more options!) While historically speaking it was a fascinating glimpse into the life during 1770, for some odd reason the latter half of the book struck me as boring.

2 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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