(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Esther Forbes 1891–1967

American historian, biographer, and fiction writer. Born and raised in New England, Forbes had an early interest in the life styles and folklore of that region. This blossomed into serious historical research, prompted by the many varied and intriguing stories she heard concerning her own ancestors, including the tale of a woman who died in jail, accused of witchcraft. Forbes won the Pulitzer Prize in History in 1943 for her biography, Paul Revere and the World He Lived In. It was while working on this book that she uncovered information about the apprentices of the Revolutionary period and contemplated writing a book which dealt with this subject. At this time, the impending World War II was thrusting young men into positions and responsibilities of adulthood not unlike the situation prior to the Revolutionary War. The combination of these two stimuli brought about the creation of one of Forbes's most remarkable novels. On the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, she began work on Johnny Tremain: A Novel for Old and Young, which told the story of a silversmith's apprentice and his maturation in pre-Revolution Boston. She was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1944 for this book and it was almost universally acclaimed for its historical accuracy as well as its depth of insight and emotion. Throughout the years, it has maintained a high status as a source of information on colonial New England while remaining a favorite for pure reading enjoyment. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 13-14; obituary, Vols. 25-28, rev. ed.; Contemporary Authors Permanent Series, Vol. 1, and Something about the Author, Vol. 2.)