Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Reading Through History: Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (1943)

In pre-Revolutionary War Boston, Johnny Tremain is apprenticed to a silversmith and it is assumed he will one day marry the boss's daughter and take over the business as his own. When a fellow apprentice, moved by jealousy, sabotages Johnny's crucible, however, he is burned by molten silver and becomes incapable of continuing in this line of work. His search for a new trade leads him to the newspaper business and ultimately straight into the heart of the revolution.

My mom bought this book for me when I was a kid, but I was so averse to reading about misfortune of any kind that I never so much as cracked the spine. Even as an adult, I found reading it on the page didn't really work for me, and I kept avoiding reading it. Finally, when I tried the audiobook, everything finally clicked, and I found that I really enjoyed it after all. 

This book is a great look into daily life in America during the early days of our country. The details of how people dressed, the kind of work they did, and how they interacted with each other really immerse the reader in the time period and make it easy to imagine what it might have been like to live then. The story also provides a character lesson about the dangers of pride, but it is delivered in such a way that the reader almost comes to the moral by herself, and it never feels as though the author is giving a sermon. I also really enjoyed the friendship between Johnny and his friend Rab. Their faithfulness and loyalty to each other made me invest strongly in their relationship.

Because of the subject matter, which involves some questions about Johnny's paternity and also concerns about marriage and career, I think the best audience for this book is probably going to be at the very upper elementary or middle school level. It's also really enjoyable for an adult who is interested in the day-to-day life of the American people during the Revolutionary War. 

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