Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Son of Liberty
by Esther Forbes
Although Esther Forbes wrote fewer than a dozen books in her life, her 1942 biography Paul Revere and the World in Which He Lived won the Pulitzer Prize for History, and her 1943 historical novel Johnny Tremain was awarded the Newbery Medal. As of 2000--more than fifty years after its publication--Johnny Tremain was the 16th bestselling children's book in the United States. Set in the exciting pre-Revolutionary years of Boston, Johnny Tremain is the story of an orphaned fourteen-year-old silversmith apprentice, who after burning and deforming his hand with hot silver, must find work elsewhere.
Stopping in various shops to find suitable employment, Johnny wanders into a print shop that publishes The Boston Observer, a patriot newspaper. Johnny is hired to deliver papers to subscribers in outlying towns and takes lodging in a loft above the shop with Rab, the printer's apprentice. On Sundays, their sleeping loft becomes the meeting place of a secret club, the Boston Observers, whose members include Paul Revere, Sam and John Adams, John Hancock, Joseph Otis, and Dr. Joseph Warrens.
Johnny "changed from knowing little enough about the political excitement, and caring less, to being an ardent Whig," as he gets caught up in the growing tensions between the Whigs (Patriots) and Torries (British sympathizers) that lead to the Boston Tea Party, the midnight ride of Paul Revere, and the Battle of Lexington. Johnny Tremain is a story of pride, adventure, and hope, but one of sadness and loss, too.