Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
T H E G L E N C O E L I T E R A T U R E L I B R A R Y
After high school, Forbes studied history at the University of Wisconsin. Like her char- acter Johnny Tremain, whose life changes because of the American Revolution, Forbes's life was redirected by war. After the United States entered World War I, Forbes left col- lege to join the war effort, working on a Virginia farm. "One of the proudest moments of my life was when the farmer appointed me as a teamster to work only with horses, instead of merely shucking corn and picking apples like the other girls," she said.
Forbes worked as an editor for a book pub- lisher after World War I ended. She also devoted time to her own writing, publishing her first novel in 1926. In the next ten years, she published four more books-all historical novels linked to New England. Turning her interest to biography, Forbes chose as her sub- ject a famous historical figure from this region. Her book Paul Revere and the World He Lived In won the Pulitzer Prize in 1943.
During her extensive research for Paul Revere, Forbes was drawn to the lives of early Bostonians. She became especially interested in the young apprentices of this time and decided to tell their story in a work of historical fiction. In this work, entitled Johnny Tremain, war influenced her life once again. With World War II raging, Forbes saw young people thrust into adult roles of responsibility. Like the patriots of colonial America, they were fighting desperately for their cause. In Johnny Tremain, Forbes wanted to show that in the 1770s, as in the 1940s, young Americans "were conscious of what they were fighting for and that it was some- thing which they believed was worth more than their own lives."
Forbes won the 1944 Newbery Medal for Johnny Tremain. She explained that she wanted to show readers "the excitement of human nature, never static, always changing, often unpredictable and endlessly fascinating."
Johnny Tremain Study Guide 9
Meet Esther Forbes
No matter how much external things change, the human emotions do not seem to change much.
For Esther Forbes, the past was as alive asthe present. Forbes's love of history dated back to her earliest childhood days in rural Massachusetts. The youngest of five children, Esther was born in 1891 into a family with a tradition of studying history. Her mother was an antiquarian-an expert on objects from much earlier times-whose work focused on New England. Young Esther's home was filled with physical reminders connecting her pre- sent life to the past. The Forbes family also preserved history with stories of its own past. One of the stories was about an ancestor jailed for witchcraft.
In these surroundings, Forbes quickly devel- oped her love of history and of stories based on historical events. She read widely-everything from the classical Iliad, to her mother's manu-...