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My Brother Sam Is Dead



Great novel about the American Revolution for older kids.
Popular with kids

What parents need to know

Positive messages

A historical novel based on the Revolutionary War offers a realistic look at growing up during this tumultuous time in American history.

Positive role models

One soldier denigrates a slave, a Native American is not allowed in a tavern because of his race. A main character defies his father.


References to a beheading, a hanging, and shootings. A main character is shot at and catches fire. A teenage boy is taken prisoner and dies. Although he's innocent, a main character is condemned to die and is executed.

Not applicable

Infrequent, mostly religiously themed profanity.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that well-written prose conveys the excitement of growing up. Violence includes the death of a teen and the execution of an innocent main character.

What's the story?

Tim's life turns upside down when his older brother, Sam, defies their father and goes off to fight in the Revolutionary War and then his father disappears. Amid the cyclone of war, Tim helps his mother run the family tavern. Full of excitement and hard truths, this is a great historical novel about the Revolution.


Is it any good?


The realistic action that pervades this fact-based book mesmerizes kids, who enjoy this title often required for school. Young readers get a glimpse into 18th-century America and begin to understand the realities of the Revolution. The authors -- one a well-known children's writer and the other a professor of American history -- include an afterword explaining how much of the book is true and telling readers where they can go to see the Meeker tavern, which still exists, as well as other sites in the book.

At a distance, war looks glorious to 10-year-old Tim, but as it intrudes on his own life, it forces him to grow up. Tim witnesses the capture of his father, and patriots falsely accuse his brother of stealing his own family's cattle -- and Tim can do nothing to help them. By the time he is 14 years old, he knows, as his mother says, that "war turns men into animals."

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about coping with danger.

  • How would you feel in Tim's shoes?

  • Have you ever been in a dangerous situation?

Book details

Author:James Lincoln Collier
Genre:Historical Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Simon & Schuster
Publication date:January 1, 1974
Number of pages:216

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Teen, 16 years old Written byguitarteen92 August 14, 2009

A must read for anyone with even the slightest interest in history

I read the book when I was nine years old, and have read it several times since. Though an American by birth, my mother is British, and I was raised to see both sides of the American Revolution, not the whitewashed version presented by most modern history textbooks and films. My Brother Sam is Dead presents a side of the American Revolution not often seen today. The Meeker Family, though Loyalists, are shown as real people having real concerns. Especially poignant is the tension between the eldest brother Sam Meeker, the rebel, and his father. Throughout the book, Tim Meeker, the protaganist, is exposed to the best and worst of both sides of the war. Any kid with even a slight interest in history should read this book. There are a couple of "naughty words" mostly just the word "hell" and the D-word, but that might concern most parents. Also a concern to parents might be the fact that there is no happy ending.
What other families should know
Educational value
Parent of a 7 and 11 year old Written byyantar April 13, 2011

14+ not younger

Way too violent and graphic for my 11 year old. Execution and other killings described in detail and in first person
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Parent of a 10 year old Written byjammarkidd March 8, 2010

not that interesting, and not suitable for elementary children!!!

My 10 year old fifth grader was required to read it. I think the language is appalling, and that the beheading and violence and gore are completely inappropriate for a child this young. We do not use this kind of language in our home, and we do not attend media events where it is used or allow our child to do so. Why then, do we choose "newberry award winning novels" for 10 year olds (their teachers do) that slam them with this stuff? What happened to the classics?


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