A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- Happy birthday Constance C. Greene (Beat the Turtle Drum) and Lillian Morrison (Yours Till Niagara Falls).
- Itâ€™s the birth date of Enid Bagnold (1889â€“1981), National Velvet.
- Also born on this day were President Theodore â€śTeddyâ€ť Roosevelt (1858â€“1919) and Isaac Merrit Singer (1811â€“1875) who invented first practical home sewing machine.
- The word "jazz" appears in Variety magazine, in 1916, the first published reference to this uniquely American music. Read Jazz by Walter Dean Myers and Christopher Myers, This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt and R. G. Roth, and Jazz on a Saturday Night by Leo and Diane Dillon.
October has been designated Reading Group Month by the Womenâ€™s National Book Association. All kinds of reading groups have become popular over the last couple of decades: teen book groups, mother and daughter groups, parents and children groups.
An ideal pick for book groups and classroom discussions is our book of the day: My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier. First published in 1974, the book was released after the war in Vietnam and two years before the Bicentennial of the Revolutionary War. Unlike Forbesâ€™s Johnny Tremain the book might best be described as an antiwar Revolutionary War book. In fact, until the publication of M. T. Andersonâ€™s The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, I always considered My Brother Sam Is Dead the darkest Revolutionary War novel in the childrenâ€™s literature canon.
Narrated by Tim Meeker, the novel, set in Redding, Connecticut, describes the effect of the war on a typical family in a small, New England community. Right after the skirmish at Lexington and Concord, Sam Meeker leaves Yale and marches to fight with the Patriots. But his father, who owns a tavern, considers himself a Tory, as do many others in Redding, and argues with Sam before he goes off to join the battle. Because Sam needs a gun, he steals one from the houseâ€”and in doing so takes the familyâ€™s only means of protection.
Tim has always idolized his older brother, and now he must live with his fatherâ€™s anger and the uncertainty of what will happen to his hero. Based on superb historical research, this Newbery Honor Book shows the terrible price that families paid during the war. Largely focusing on Connecticutâ€™s role in the Revolution, the book contains some very compelling scenes when Tim and his father travel through Westchester County in New Yorkâ€”a lawless area where Patriots and Tories formed renegade groups and attacked those they believe to be on the other side. The hunger, the shifting positions of neighbors, and the brutality of both the British and the Americans toward average citizens gets full play in the book. Even more important, the novel shows that the American Revolution was the first Civil War in this country. For many readers, this revelation will be one they did not encounter in history text books.
For those who dislike unhappy endings, the title alone should tell you all you need to know. In an ironic twist, Mr. Meeker actually dies while in custody of the British, and Sam is killed by the Patriots for a crime he did not commit. Fortunately the narrator Tim, who readers have grown to care for, lives and thrives in the new countryâ€”one born out of violence and bloodshed.
Riveting storytelling and a powerful commentary on war help make My Brother Sam Is Dead ideal for group discussions. For almost forty years it has reminded its readers of the brutality of war, any war.
Hereâ€™s a passage from My Brother Sam Is Dead:
We reached Ridgebury around lunchtime. We didnâ€™t stop to eat, but chewed on some biscuits and drank some beer for thirst as we walked along. We couldnâ€™t have a conversation, really: the cattle made too much noise as they tromped along mooing, and we had to shout to hear each other. And that was why we didnâ€™t hear the men riding up on us until they came in sight over a little hill in front of us.
There were six of them, and they were carrying weaponsâ€”mostly old muskets, but one or two of them had swords and pistols. They were dressed in ordinary clothingâ€”brown shirts and trousers and muddy boots. As they came toward us, I began to turn the oxen to the side of the road so they could pass. But they didnâ€™t go on by. They charged up to us, surrounded us, and stopped. I knew they were cow-boys. I pulled the wagonâ€™s long brake lever and whoa-ed the oxen. The cattle stopped going forward and began milling around. I turned and looked back at Father.
Originally posted October 27, 2011. Updated for .