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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Book Review: The Matchlock Gun by Walter D. Edmonds

TITLE: The Matchlock Gun
PUBLICATION DATE: November 23, 1998 (first published 1941)
FORMAT: Paperback, 80 pages
GENRE: Classics, Historical Fiction
ISBN: 9780698116801
In 1756, New York State was still a British colony, and the French and the Indians were constant threats to Edward and his family. When his father was called away to watch for a raid from the north, only Edward was left to protect Mama and little Trudy. His father had shown him how to use the huge matchlock gun, an old Spanish gun that was twice as long as he was, but would Edward be able to handle it if trouble actually came? This classic, first published in 1941, has an updated, kid-friendly format that includes the original black-and-white illustrations.


I read this book aloud to my children. It won the 1942 Newbery Medal.

The story takes place in the mid 1700s in New York State. Captain Teunis Van Alstyne is a member of the militia and has been going to Albany for the past several months to watch for the Indians who were raiding the houses of settlers. With her husband away on military duty, Gertrude becomes concerned by the fires in the distance which she fears have been set by the Indians. She takes the huge matchlock gun down from the mantle, loads it, and props it up on the table. She shows her ten year-old son, Edward, how to light the flint but only when she calls his name in Dutch, "Ateoord!"

Gertrude secures the bolts on the window shutters and chops a corner of one shutter away with an axe. She has the matchlock gun pointing right at the opening. She takes her six year-old daughter, Trudy, and tells her to play quietly in the bedroom. Gertrude goes outside on the premise of picking beans, but she is only pretending to so that she can look around and see whether she can spot anything suspicious. She comes across five Indians, and she runs towards home while yelling the names of her husband and uncle for help. This is obviously meant as a heads-up to her son, since her husband is away on military duty and her uncle has been deceased for years. As she reaches the front door, she shouts "Ateoord!" and Edward lights the matchlock gun, which kills three of the Indians but not before a tomahawk is launched at her and lands in her shoulder. The force of the massive gun going off knocks Edward backwards, and the heavy gun lands on top of him and he is struck unconscious. He is awakened by Trudy's screaming, and he finds that the front stoop is on fire -- presumably set by the two surviving Indians before they fled the scene. Edward drags the matchlock gun outside and pulls his mother off the burning stoop. As he watches their house burn down, young Trudy falls asleep in his lap while his unconscious mother lies beside him. Captain Teunis returns hope to find the bodies of three dead Indians lying beside his sleeping family.

Although a bit violent, I really enjoyed this story because it portrayed the mother as the heroine of the story! She was fearless, even though she was terrified, and she came up with a plan and executed it to perfection. The plan would never have worked if she hadn't put her faith and trust in her young son. It was a great example of teamwork!


4 stars! It was really good, and I would recommend it!

This book qualifies as: 

1 comment:

  1. Here's another one that I've never heard of before! I think this one will go on my pre 1960s challenge list too. Great review Darlene!
    -Kimberly @ Turning the Pages


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