Coming of Age Story
set during the Revolutionary War
. 1944 Newbery Medal winner and a popular reading assignment in American schools.
The title character is a super-talented apprentice silversmith from Boston whose bright future is apparently ruined when he burns his hand at work. In need of a new life, he befriends a boy named Rab and becomes swept up in the American independence movement.
Disney made The Film of the Book
in The Fifties
complete with an annoyingly catchy song
about the Liberty Tree ("It's a tall old tree and a strong old tree"). It was actually originally intended as a Made-for-TV Movie
, hence the low budget and no-name cast, but it ended up getting a theatrical release.
Provides examples of:
- As the Good Book Says — Mr. Lapham pointedly makes Johnny read the Pride Before a Fall passage at breakfast in order to humiliate him, with Puritanically good intentions.
- Been There, Shaped History — Among other things, Johnny participates in the Boston Tea Party and tips off Robert Newman to put two lanterns in the Old North Church belltower.
- Berserk Button — Johnny's hand.
- Big Brother Mentor — Rab to Johnny.
- Break the Haughty
- Can't Hold His Liquor — Rab and Johnny get Dove drunk to get information out of him.
- The Clan — the Lytes on one hand, and the Silsbees on the other.
- The Colonial Period / The American Revolution
- Coming of Age Story
- Cool Horse — Goblin.
- Covers Always Lie — at least, the above cover is lying if the boy's supposed to be Johnny, since he can't use a gun.
- Dawson Casting — Johnny and Cilla are fourteen at the start of the novel. Their ages were unspecified in the film, but their actors were seventeen and nineteen respectively.
- Death by Newbery Medal — Well, there IS a war starting (and by ending the book when it did, they halved the body count). Dr. Warren was killed at Breeds/Bunker Hill shortly after the book ends.
- Deliberately Cute Child — Isannah, bordering on Fille Fatale as she gets older and falls under Lavinia Lyte's influence.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me! — Johnny's hand again.
- Downer Ending
- Averted in the Disney movie, of course.
- Dressing as the Enemy
- Establishing Character Moment — Johnny can tell that Rab is worth knowing the moment he steps into the printer's shop, and it's Rab's "intelligent remark" about Johnny's hand that cements it.
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas — Lavinia Lyte may be spoiled, rich, and vain, but she's utterly devoted to her father and loves him more than anything.
- Fallen Princess — how Johnny's mother, a Lyte girl, ended up hoping her son could grow up to be a master silversmith at best and dying of a vague disease.
- Friendly Enemy — Lieutenant Stranger.
- Gone Horribly Right: Dove gives Johnny a cracked crucible to teach him some humility — and boy, did Johnny learn some after that.
- Heroic BSOD — Johnny goes through this stage after injuring his hand.
- Hidden Depths — Rab; also James Otis in his Rousing Speech scene.
- Honest John's Dealership — Mr. Lyte is a crooked merchant.
- Hot-Blooded — Johnny's main character flaw besides arrogance.
- In the Past, Everyone Will Be Famous — Founding Fathers and their associates abound; obviously this is justified to an extent, but we get to know Paul Revere, John Hancock and Josiah Quincy before the impending Revolution becomes even slightly relevant to Johnny's life.
- It's All Junk — Johnny gets a chance to take his cup back when the Lytes get run out of town, but by that point he's moved on.
- Irony — Meta example: The movie was directed by an Englishman, Robert Stevenson.
- Jerkass — Johnny before he starts to watch himself.
- Leaning on the Furniture — One of Rab's main assets in life seems to be the ability to appear casual in any situation.
- Long Lost Relative — Johnny and the Lytes.
- Mook-Face Turn — Pumpkin.
- Nephewism — Rab's parents are dead, so he lives with his aunt and her husband (to whom he is apprenticed).
- Orphan's Ordeal — Johnny is an orphan; his first surrogate family is the Laphams, as he is apprenticed to the family patriarch and expected to marry Cilla once they're old enough so he can inherit the business. Later he is taken in by Rab and his family. Meanwhile his actual extended family, the Lytes, want nothing to do with him.
- Orphan's Plot Trinket: The silver cup.
- Pride Before a Fall
- Reading The Enemy's Mail
- Red Oni, Blue Oni — Johnny and Rab.
- The Resenter — Dove.
- Rich Bitch — Lavinia Lyte.
- Rousing Speech — "A man can stand up."
- She Is All Grown Up — Cilla.
- Shot at Dawn
- The Stoic — Rab.
- Tell Me About My Father
- Villainous Widow's Peak — Johnny, though the text actually describes it as a mark of wisdom. It seems the trope has changed a bit over time.
- Will They or Won't They? — Johnny and Cilla's mutual crush never gets a resolution, nor, for that matter, do Rab's attempts to win her.