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My Brother Sam Is Dead

Book review by
Monica Wyatt, Common Sense Media
My Brother Sam Is Dead Book Poster Image
Great novel about the American Revolution for older kids.
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 185 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

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 & Representations

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.


Infrequent, mostly religiously themed profanity.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
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 inappropriat... Continue reading
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
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... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bySamamuel December 15, 2011

My Brother Sam is not the Best

My Brother Sam is Dead was not the best book I have ever read, in my school we read it in 8th grade, which is definitely not the grade I would have assigned it... Continue reading

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."

Talk to your kids 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

For kids who love adventure

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