A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
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 & Scariness
Johnny Tremain has tendency to glorify war, though some of its horrors are shown. Johnny and his revolutionary friends repeatedly risk their lives.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.