Books for Kids · Reading

“The Journal of William Thomas Emerson” review

“My name is Will. William Thomas Emerson is my full name, in honor of my papa, only he’s dead now. So is everyone else.”

So begins The Journal of William Thomas Emerson: A Revolutionary War Patriot, a book in the My Name is America series. This one is written by Barry Denenberg though the series as a whole uses multiple authors. If you’ve ever read any of the Dear America books, this series seems to be the “boy targeted” version of that one.  

In brief, this is the first person story of a twelve year old orphan boy who runs away to Boston in the years just before the American Revolution. Though it calls itself a journal and is chronological, it’s not really a day-by-day account; actually, the entries aren’t dated at all, but set apart by subtitles (which seems odd if you’re trying to replicate a kid’s journal). Some of the entries are directly related to the central plot, that of Will meeting and gaining the trust of Mr. Wilson, one of the early revolutionary leaders. Other entries are semi-related to the cause of liberty and others just ancillary incidents that fill out the picture the author creates of the time period.

Overall, this was a fine book. It certainly proved an interesting supplement to our study of the Revolution, and I really liked how it made a point to highlight even non-essential aspects of life in Boston at the time. The writing and story telling was middle-of-the-road but certainly tolerable and the book includes quite a bit of non-fiction facts, pictures, and diagrams at the end to supplement the story.

My complains are two: first, the journal includes “copies” of several articles that Mr. Wilson and others write to various Boston publications and as they are written in the style of the period they were hard for my kids to follow. Second, I thought the ending proved to be a bit anti-climactic and sudden. 

One word of caution: don’t let the cute picture of the little kid on the front fool you into thinking this series is for really young kids. There’s a fair bit of violence and intense themes/situations. I felt they were fine for my 7 and 8 year old, but probably wouldn’t have felt that way if my kids were 5 and 6. 

Profanity 0
Violence 2 Not a lot (frequency), but what there was I found to be fairly graphic.
Sex/Romantic Themes .5 A very minor sub-plot involves a colonist girl and the British soldier she’s seeing.
Miscellaneous If you’re looking for a balanced presentation, one that sees things from both the American and British perspectives, this is not it. It reads as firmly pro-colonist, anti-British.

NOTE: As always, my content notes are for informational purposes, not judgmental ones. For a full explanation of my Content Notes and the scale, click here. 

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