Johnny Tremain

Book review by
Jennifer Docherty, Common Sense Media
Johnny Tremain Book Poster Image
Parents recommend
Sweeping tale of redcoats, revolutionaries, and brave boy.

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 18 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

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 & Representations

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
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What 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.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bythemlgbloke January 22, 2016

very suky

worst book i have evr red i think it is suky cuz it haz no acion wat so evr
Adult Written by251mellabelle June 27, 2011

Johnny Tremain--A book with dynamic benefits

I learned much from this book and I'm near 40. It is a wonderful companion to have on your side as you teach American History at the time near the Boston T... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bykamatrq March 4, 2020

Run as fast as you can

2 of my friends and I were forced to read this book. Took the life out of us. It did not have a good story line at all.
Kid, 11 years old December 19, 2019

Boring (But Educational)

The plot is very boring and slow progressing. Our teacher read this to us and my friend's mom said she also hated the book. Only some people enjoyed this b... Continue reading

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?

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.

Talk to your kids 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

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