Sunday, October 6, 2013

Bunker Hill

I recently finished Bunker Hill by Nathaniel Philbrick.  I really enjoyed this detailed telling of the months leading up to and including Lexington and Concord and the battle of Bunker Hill.  Revolutions have always been messy and never as simple and straight forward as history books would have us believe.  I really liked how Philbrick was able to flesh out these historical characters and make them seem like real people.  Extensive notes by page number at the back of the book provide further insight.

Nathaniel Philbrick states that his interest in this time period was first piqued as a young boy while reading Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes.  It was a Newbery Award winning book in 1943.  Esther Forbes was a historian, not a novelist and certainly not a novelist for young readers.  In 1943 she won a Pulitzer Prize for Paul Revere and the World He Lived In published in 1942 which was a historical work for an adult audience.  Now she was taking what she had learned to try to tell the story of a young boy growing up in Boston based on a small but true incident of a boy delivering a message about British movements to Paul Revere.

Her manuscript was much like Margaret Mitchell's for Gone with the Wind, that is a stream of words with no punctuation and guessed at spelling.  Editors cleaned both books up and they became classic historical novels of crucial times in United States history.  Johnny Tremain was published during the middle of World War II, another critical time in United States history.  It is suggested that Esther Forbes decided to write this novel because of the current world war as a way to let young readers know why the United States was fighting another war and that it is important to stand up for democratic principles.

After finishing Bunker Hill and reading about Philbrick's inspiration, I decided to also read Johnny Tremain.  It was easy because I had picked up a paperback in early summer along with other books thinking it might be read by a visiting grandchild.  It is a great historical telling of this important time in our national history.

I really thought I had read Johnny Tremain during my childhood years but the book didn't feel familiar.  I think the Johnny Tremain that I remembered was the Disney version first released in the late 1950's.

It would be very interesting to watch that movie again all these years later.  I recommend both books.

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