Johhny Tremain has been a staple of elementary school reading lists for years. Like many Newberry Medal winners, it tells the story of a boy who changes into a man (age 16) while performing countless heroic deeds and facing innumerable sorrows set against the background of social turmoil. Trite? Perhaps, and yet it is still a book that discusses many important issues such as religion, patriotism, friendship and love. It is certainly a children's book, and as such it is a wonderful book.
Johnny Tremain begins life as an indentured Silversmith, working under a crachety master who is also a strict Christian. The master's wife, however, is a more worldly woman (remember, this IS a children's book) who is more interested in profit than in God's salvation. Johnny turns out to be a precocious silversmith who does better work than his aging master, and enjoys it. The first major conflict of the book comes when a very expensive order is due and the only way to finish it is to work on Sunday. Without the master's knowledge, Johnny decides to work on Sunday and in doing so, burns his hand horribly. The remainder of book is spent with Johhny trying to find his place in a world that he thought he knew so well. As a patriotic citizen of Boston at the time of the American Revolution he is thrown in and out of conflicts with the British, he falls in and out of love, and he discovers what standing up for a belief truly entails.