Title: Early Thunder
Author: Jean Fritz
Major Themes: Massachusetts, Historical Fiction, American Revolution
Synopsis: Daniel was a Tory, as his father was, in Salem, Massachusetts on the eve of the Revolutionary War—what would happen when the pressure came on him to declare his beliefs publicly?
Early Thunder was quite a different type of book. Most of the books we’ve read about the American Revolution have featured main characters who were whole-heartedly on the Patriot side from the beginning. That wasn’t the case in this book. Jean Fritz did a great job of showing the tensions building up in Massachusetts leading up to the Revolution, and the dilemma many people would have found themselves in.
Daniel was a Tory. His father was a Tory, and Daniel was absolutely loyal to the King, as well. He was disgusted by the antics of the Liberty Boys in his hometown of Salem, and wanted to have nothing to do with them. His own life was eventful enough, and hard to understand, too, since his mother died and his father was absent most of the time. Daniel spent his days at school and often visited his tiny baby brother, who was being cared for by the wife of the night watchman, who was one of Daniel’s close friends. Then one day, Daniel’s life turned upside down when his father came home with a new wife—and she set about to change Daniel’s life even more.
Daniel also found himself confused by what was going on in the political world around him. He knew he was a Tory and not a Whig—but when he was challenged by a British soldier as to what he really believed, what would he decide? And then, when all the prominent Tories in the town were given the option to sign a paper saying they were Whigs, or move to Canada, what would his father do? Would Daniel ever know what he believed in for sure? And if he did figure it out, what would happen when the pressure was on?
As I said, Early Thunder does a great job of showing the tensions in the colonies and in individuals. I also liked watching Daniel’s strength of character growing. In chapter 13 he came to an important realization, that no one knows what they’ll do till they’re pressed. When the pressure is put on a person, when they find themselves in a hard situation, that’s when they discover what is really inside. I thought that was illustrated very well in this book.
WARNING: Chapter 1: a blasted jar. Chapter 2: realistic effigy hanging in a tree. Chapter 4: boy swearing on a grave, people watching a hanging. Chapter 7: damnation to Tories. Chapter 11: boy beaten up. Chapter 14: fire and be damned.
Listening Level—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12
Reading Independently—Ages 10 – 12, 12 – 15