My Brother Sam Is Dead

My Brother Sam Is Dead

ALA says this book was the 12th most challenged book from 1990-2000 and continues to be censored because of mild profanity and for being unpatriotic. Towards the end of this heart wrenching novel, her nerves shot, the wife and mother, Suzannah Meeker, angrily responds revealing how war can psychologically and emotionally affect families and women on the home front--' "Bah, patriotism. Your patriotism has got my husband in prison and one of my children out there in the rain and muck shooting people and likely to be dead any minute, and my business is half ruined. Go sell your patriotism elsewhere, I've had enough of it." '

Told through the eyes of the younger brother, Tim Meeker, he recounts a series of American Revolutionary War events and episodes from its beginning in April 1775. No described jingo heroics here. The human drama is off the battlefield. The main, unresolved conflict is between the patriotic enthusiasm of his older sixteen-year-old brother Sam and his loyalist father, family, and a diversity of Connecticut neighbors, including Sam's girlfriend, Betsy. Throughout the story, the narrator isn't sure which side is right. How do civilians and non-combatants cope and conduct their daily survival surrounded by the fog and chaos of war? Who is and who is not the enemy?

According to historians, about a third of the colonists supported the revolution, about a third were neutral, and about a third remained loyal to the King or were Tories. This novel is unique in dealing with and showing empathy and understanding for both the Loyalist and neutral sides. The closest YA novel I recall with a similar point of view would be Howard Fast's earlier The Hessian (1972) -- both involve an execution. That book plus Fast's April Morning (1961) and this novel would make a terrific history or English teaching or study unit. Reviews of both Fast titles are available at this site.

Thus, whenever someone mentions our 1861-1865 Civil War, you might want to remind them that America has had TWO civil wars. The Revolutionary War also pitted family, neighbors, and communities against each other. If skeptical, have him or her read this book! 216 pages.Recommended by Robert L. Hicks, Librarian.


This is one of the best historical fiction books written for kids about the American Revolution, because it brings the war down to the personal level of the Meeker family, as the father and two sons make choices about where to invest their loyalties. How would you know what was right? What happens when father and son disagree? Even better is that the Meeker family was a real family, even though the story itself is fictional. The events unfold through the eyes of the eleven-year-old son who watches his brother, Sam, and his father go off to war, though on different sides. 240 pages Ages 11-15


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