One of the neat things about this project is that it allows me the chance to re-read some of the classroom standards from my own childhood! One of these books, Johnny Tremain, is about an apprentice silversmith working in colonial Boston. Johnny is a cocky and prideful boy, but his career comes to a screeching halt when he burns his hand by accident. While searching for a trade that he’ll be able to perform with his handicap, Johnny eventually becomes involved with the American Revolution.
My favorite part of this book was the way that historical characters like Paul Revere, Samuel Adams and John Hancock played supporting roles in the story. When we read about these men in History class, they often seem larger than life. By writing them into a story that focuses primarily on Johnny’s fictional character, we’re allowed to take a much closer look at these men in their everyday lives. At a few points in the book, I almost felt like I was traveling back in time to 1775! It’s incredible to see Boston as it is right now, and still try to imagine how it must have looked under the occupation of a foreign army.
The book concludes in April of 1776, just after the battles of Lexington and Concord. I found it interesting that the author chose to end Johnny’s story just as the much bigger story of the Revolutionary War was beginning. We’re left to wonder about what happened to Johnny—did he become a soldier, or continue supporting the Revolution in any way? Ms. Forbes left a lot of questions unanswered, but I think she did this on purpose. Johnny’s fictional story is a way of paying tribute to the thousands of young men who lived and fought during that era, even though history has forgotten them.