Johnny Tremain

by Esther Forbes
200+ pages, Historical Fiction
Reviewed by Clodsley S.

Wonderfully-written historical fiction novel is a bit on the violent side, but very enjoyable.


In a country on the brink of Revolution lives 14-year-old Johnny Tremain, an apprentice to a silversmith at Hancock's Wharf, Massachusetts. When a serious accident leaves him out of work, he becomes a carrier for the "Boston Observer" and finds himself becoming dangerously close to the many people trying to declare independence for America in the mid 1700s.


Johnny is a bit of a brat when the story begins, but when he finds that he cannot work anymore after an accident with a crucible which caused his thumb to warp into his palm, he meets people who help him crawl out of his boastful shell and become a respectable person. Most of the British are seen as cruel and heartless, but many of them just want to stop fighting and run a home or a business. There are good lessons to be learned from the book, such as humbleness and standing up for what's right.

Spiritual Content

While not a truly religious book, the undertones of Christian religion play a part in the story. Johnny's master, Mr. Lapham, is strict on keeping the Sabbath day holy. It is seen as a punishment from God when he goes and does work but ends up getting injured. Going to Meeting is talked about. Hell is also brought up by the characters and the narrator, used in the correct way. Many of the soldiers, after winning the battle at Lexington, said that God was on their side.


Since the book takes place before and during the Revolution, one can expect that there will be quite a lot of violence. However, the author does not go into great description. In an accident with a crucible, Johnny ends up with a serious, rather appalling injury. A doctor tells him that he can cut the skin so that he can use his thumb again. Men are beaten and there is discussion of hanging. A man is shot by a firing squad. Another is tarred and feathered for humiliation. Soldiers return from the war bloodied, beaten, and bandaged. Death of a major character.

Drug and Alcohol Content

A good deal of the story takes place at the African Queen. Ale and beer is served there. Johnny and his cohorts go there frequently. A British soldier offers Johnny a tankard of ale. Johnny gets a character drunk in order to loosen his tongue. Beer and wine is drank in other places besides the Afric Queen, by children and adults, suitable for the time.

Sexual Content

Priscilla and Johnny talk about courtship, and Johnny gets jealous when Priscilla tells him that one of his friends is courting her. A British lieutenant writes love letters to a local woman.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

"D-mn" and "D-mned" are used a few times, mostly by the British. "Hell" is used correctly. The British are called "Lobsterbacks," "Bloody-backs," etc. Priscilla Lapham and her younger sister like taunting Johnny.


Exciting and descriptive, "Johnny Tremain" is a wonderful book for those who like classic literature and historical fiction. The book was written for an older teen-tween age group, and the violence might be a little much for youngsters. Other than that, there are no sexual situations, nor is there a lot of swearing, and God is put in a good light by the author.

Fun Score: 4.5
Values Score: 5
Written for Age: 13+

Review Rating:

Average rating: 5 stars
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