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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Book Review: Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

TITLE: Johnny Tremain 

AUTHOR: Esther Forbes
DATE OF PUBLICATION: December 27, 2005 (first published 1943)
FORMAT: Paperback, 322 pages
GENRE: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Classics


Johnny Tremain, a young apprentice silversmith, is caught up in the danger and excitement of 1775 Boston, just before the Revolutionary War. But even more gripping than living through the drama of Revolutionary Boston is the important discovery Johnny makes in his own life.


I read this book aloud to my children. It won the 1944 Newbery Medal.

This is an historical fiction novel that takes place in Massachusetts in late 1700s before the American Revolution. Although the character of 14 year-old Johnny Tremain is a fictional hero, Forbes weaves many genuine historical figures throughout the story, including: Paul Revere, General Thomas Gage, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Doctor Joseph Warren, Governor Thomas Hutchinson, John Pitcairn, Francis Smith, Josiah Quincy II, and James Otis, Jr.

At the outset, orphaned Johnny Tremain is working as a silversmith’s apprentice. He shows real promise and skill in his craft but, unfortunately, one of his hands is burned by molten silver. Unable to perform the delicate work any longer because of his injured hand, he is forced to find another trade that he can learn. He is steadfast in trying to find skilled labour but is unable to find someone that is willing to employ him, so he takes a job delivering newspapers on horseback for the Boston Observer which is run by the Silsbee family. He learns that secret meetings are being organized by the Silsbees and are being attended by local businessman known as the Sons of Liberty. Johnny participates in the Boston Tea Party which is organized by the Sons of Liberty, and he also aids Paul Revere in warning the Minutemen that the British soldiers are coming.

Forbes goes into great detail describing the Boston Tea Party, the Battles of Lexington and Concord, Paul Revere’s Ride, and the political differences between the Whigs and the Tories. For the most part, my 9 year-old remained engaged in the story even through the lengthy historical narratives. We all loved Johnny Tremain and the fictional story lines, and it was nice to see Johnny's growth in maturity as a result of what he went through.

Overall, we really enjoyed the story. Because of its historically rich content, the book is more ideally suited for an older reader.


4 stars!! It was really good, and I would recommend it to those who enjoy historical fiction!

This book qualifies as:


  1. I think I have a personal copy of this one, but haven't gotten around to reading it yet. I shall try to look for it and share with my ten year old as well. I also have a fascination with historical fiction. :)

  2. I loved this story when I was a kid and had forgotten all about it.

    Thanks for posting your review!

  3. I remember reading this book as a child because I wanted to! I still own it but my teenager would have nothing to do with it...LOL! I remember really enjoying it! Thank you for some good memories with the review.

  4. I read this book as a kid and I loved it! I remember all of my classmates and I taped our thumbs to our hands to find out what it felt like to not be able to use your hand... We were strange children. ;) Great review - I hope to read this to my son someday!

  5. Darlene, Johnny Tremain is a classic so your review is a great way to showcase it for those who haven't yet read it.

  6. Great review! Please check out my review:


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