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Johnny Tremain

Sweeping tale of redcoats, revolutionaries, and brave boy.
Parents recommend

What parents need to know

Educational value

The Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere's ride, and the battles at Lexington and Concord are all powerfully portrayed. Forbes also shows the daily life of the working class in the colonies, illustrating the social order against which the revolutionaries fought. 

Positive messages

Stand up for freedom and what you believe in. Be brave and loyal to your friends. Frequent references are made to the importance of having guns.  

Positive role models

The more mature Rab questions Johnny's impulsive actions and hasty judgments, and Johnny slowly develops into a sensible, courageous young man, although his initial prejudice toward African-Americans is never specifically resolved. Sam Adams, in particular, is seen to actually desire war as a solution to the colonists' disagreements with England.

Violence

Johnny Tremain has tendency to glorify war, though some of its horrors are shown.  Johnny and his revolutionary friends repeatedly risk their lives.

Sex
Not applicable
Language
Not applicable
Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Johnny Tremain is a rich, well-told tale set in Colonial America. It details daily life in the colonies and puts teen Johnny in the heart of the action as the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere's ride, and the battles at Lexington and Concord unfold. First published in 1943, it's sometimes bit dry by today's standards, but it nevertheless helps the history kids read about in textbooks come alive. Families might want to check out the 1957 Disney film adaptation.

What's the story?

Against the panoramic backdrop of the Revolutionary War, a young and impressionable teen apprentice silversmith in Boston is caught up in events that will change his life and the life of his country forever.

Is it any good?

QUALITY

This sweeping tale of redcoats and revolutionaries has a lot to offer. Esther Forbes' brilliant characterizations in  immerse readers in this turbulent era of America's past. Seeing JOHNNY TREMAIN's impulsive actions and hasty judgments questioned by the more mature Rab, Johnny's character slowly develops, and his efforts to become a sensible, courageous young man are often poignant and endearing. 

Forbes, a historian, writes with detail and precision, imbuing historical events with life and passion that is often lacking in textbooks. The Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere's ride, and the battles at Lexington and Concord are all powerfully portrayed. Forbes also shows the daily life of the working class in the colonies, illustrating the social order against which the revolutionaries fought. Written in the 1940s, the novel is sometimes a bit dry by today's standards. And the African-American characters conform to stereotypes and have only marginal involvement in the events that take place. But parents and teachers can provide the cultural-historical context of such characterizations and omissions.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the racism and stereotypes. Why do you think Johnny's view of black people changes over the course of the book? Do you think his views were typical of the time? How have attitudes changed?

  • Why do you think stories about the American colonial period are popular? 

  • What do like about reading historical novels? What others have your read?  

Book details

Author:Esther Forbes
Illustrator:Lynd Ward
Genre:Historical Fiction
Topics:Adventures, Friendship, History, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication date:January 1, 1943
Number of pages:256
Available on:Paperback, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle
Award:Newbery Medal and Honors

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Teen, 13 years old Written byxxgriffinxx August 17, 2009

Sucked

Not for kids today. We don't like this kind of stuff anymore. Kids today would say "boring", "it sucked"
Teen, 13 years old Written bytrcsnow13 April 9, 2008

Very Historicle

This was the best book we have read in school. I can't wait to watch Hoosers now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Parent of a 5 year old Written byLeafStoneBooks April 18, 2011

Gripping story, great characters, you will remember it your whole life.

I loved this growing up, and read it several times. I read it aloud to my son when he was around 7. He loved it and read it by himself later. The man who became my life partner also read it as a child. I grew up in Boston, so the setting was familiar. But my son learned more about the revolutionary war from Johnny Tremain than at school, and for my husband (life long Seattle resident) it sparked a life long interest in the roots of our country, our belief systems, and our form of government. Plus it has the awesomely cool stuff about silversmithing.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models