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Tommy: The Gun That Changed America by Karen…

Tommy: The Gun That Changed America

by Karen Blumenthal

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805150,606 (4.28)2



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There is a lot to absorb, not the least of which is a history of gun control and the politics associated with it. The photography is probably the best part and tell a much better story. Although the author talked about how the media "glorified" the crime sprees and use of the Tommy gun by criminals, when she moves away from the core story - the history of the gun - she perpetuates that glorification in the way she presents the material.

Pros: Exceptional, high quality photographs entice readers to want to learn more about how the Thompson submachine gun came to become such a notorious weapon. Embedded with that is a history of gun control, which can help teens and young adults understand historical choices and political processes.

There's more to our review. Visit The Reading Tub®. While you’re there, add a link to your review of the book.
  TheReadingTub | Mar 15, 2016 |
I picked this up for a book club (we were reading books about pivotal Americans or American events) but I found it so interesting I decided to feature it on my blog and add it to my list of teen nonfiction I've been making to bolster this small section.

The book opens with a vivid picture of a violent robbery, using a Thompson submachine gun, or Tommy Gun. Then it plunges into the history of the famous weapon, starting with the Gatling gun during the Civil War and progressing into the development of the Tommy gun. Once the gun was finally perfected, the wars it was made for were over and the company was left with a superfluity of powerful machine guns. They marketed them to individuals and police departments, but it was the gangsters and criminals of the 1920s who made the "Tommy Gun" a famous weapon. Blumenthal weaves the beginnings of the NRA and the first attempts at legislative gun control, the development of police departments and the effects of Prohibition with grim stories of the role the Tommy gun played in criminal and racial killings. The concluding chapter explains how the Tommy gun fell out of favor and the ongoing effects of its development on gun control and culture.

This is written in a way that will be accessible to teen readers. More serious discussions of legislation and how the gun fits into history are interwoven with the stories of criminals and "G-Men" that caught people's fascination in the 1920s. Blumenthal presents the history neutrally, letting readers draw their own conclusions about how history has affected current controversies like gun control or the development of the FBI.

Verdict: It's not easy to get teens to read "serious" history books, but exciting stories and detailed descriptions of weaponry are sure to grab both eager and reluctant readers. As far as age-appropriate, there are gory stories but the violence is neither sensationalized nor skipped over and Blumenthal, while not emphasizing the graphic details, gives an honest portrayal of the crimes and tragedies.

ISBN: 9781626720848: Published 2015 by Roaring Brook; Borrowed from another library in my consortium
  JeanLittleLibrary | Oct 17, 2015 |
Fantastic! An easy, intriguing, exciting read! Great for younger audiences (middle school), but really intended for anyone with a bit of curiosity about the ol' Tommy Gun. Author, Karen Blumenthal, does a great job of fleshing out the origins of the gun, the inventor of it, and it's rise and fall. Lots of attention is given to the gangsters who gave it a bad name during the prohibition and depression. Delving into the seedy gangsters and how they abused the power of the Tommy gun was beyond fascinating. A captivating look at the gun that changed America. ( )
  ecataldi | Aug 17, 2015 |
TOMMY: THE GUN THAT CHANGED AMERICA by Karen Blumenthal explores the life of John Thompson and his deadly Tommy gun.

Although originally designed for military use, the Thompson submachine gun because the choice of bank robbers, bootleggers, and gangsters during the first half of the 20th century.

In this carefully researched work of nonfiction for youth, Blumenthal discusses the history of the weapon and the well-known outlaws and law enforcement officers who used it. The author does an excellent job connecting early gun control laws to today’s debate about the role of guns in society.

The book features primary source documents including historical photographs, maps, and diagrams. It also includes an extensive bibliography and notes.

Librarians will find this work to be popular with youth who enjoy books about the military, law enforcement, and crime. The fast-paced, fascinating narrative will appeal to reluctant readers. Look for it on the short list for the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal and other awards for nonfiction writing for youth for 2015.

To learn more about the author, go to http://www.karenblumenthal.com/.

Published by Roaring Brook, an imprint of Macmillan USA. ( )
  eduscapes | Jul 8, 2015 |
Richie’s Picks: TOMMY: THE GUN THAT CHANGED AMERICA by Karen Blumenthal, Roaring Brook, June 2015, 240p., ISBN: 978-1-62672-084-8

“Now as through this world I ramble
I see lots of funny men.
Some will rob you with a six gun
And some with a fountain pen.
But as through your life you travel
As through your life you roam
You won’t ever see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home.”
-- Woody Guthrie, “Pretty Boy Floyd”

“From the time the Bill of Rights was adopted until the 1930s, none of the handful of gun lawsuits that made their way to the U.S. Supreme Court addressed whether the Second Amendment gave individuals a right to own firearms. From the earliest days, settlers had restricted some gun ownership, for instance, by trying to stop firearms trading with Native Americans and forbidding slaves to have guns. Such efforts, including the disarming of blacks during Reconstruction, underscored a reality throughout American history: Those with guns held political power and those without firearms clearly did not.”

My grandparents, who lived through Prohibition and raised their children during the Great Depression, told us stories about the days of Al Capone, John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, Machine Gun Kelly, Pretty Boy Floyd, and the Saturday Night Massacre.

Today’s kids don’t have similar live connections to those times. For them, TOMMY: THE GUN THAT CHANGED AMERICA provides a fascinating and colorful look at the most notorious gangsters in U.S. history. This “true crime” facet of Karen Blumenthal’s latest history book will spark the interest of and entertain many young readers. Other readers will be engaged by the many social and political issues surrounding the manufacture, marketing, and sale of firearms in a free enterprise system.

Readers of this book might find themselves considering whether the Second Amendment (the right to keep and bear arms) is as important as the First Amendment (freedom of speech) as gun proponents argue. Or is it as bogus and antiquated as Biblical verses that are cited to marginalize women and condemn gays?

What’s a Tommy gun? Check out the music video for Fergie’s “Glamorous” (featuring Ludacris) for an eyeful.

What’s the big deal about Tommy guns? Well, they were developed by John Thompson, a former Army officer who was an expert in weaponry. Thompson hoped to make a fortune selling the high-powered weapons to the military. When that didn’t work out, he found middlemen who peddled them to the Irish Republican Army and other revolutionaries, to companies that didn’t want to put up with their workers going out on strike, and to gangsters intent on killing one another. The Tommy gun’s ability to fire many bullets in mere seconds made for some lively--and deadly--times in America.

Blumenthal’s tale includes stories about J. Edgar Hoover and the early days of the federal agency that became the FBI. She chronicles the many attempts to restrict sales of various firearms and the rise of the National Rifle Association. Bringing us to the present, the author quotes President Obama speaking about all the teens being shot to death in his hometown of Chicago.

Is there anywhere else in the world where guns and gun play are so romanticized as they are in the U.S.? It scares the hell out of me to know that millions of preschoolers are practicing killing people every day in violent video games. What leads parents to teach and support such desensitizing and antisocial behavior? A careful read of TOMMY supplies an arsenal of facts about the way that a culture of weaponry developed in America.

Returning to the Woody Guthrie song, Karen Blumenthal’s TOMMY and Sheila Bair’s THE BULLIE$ OF WALL STREET might make odd but interesting literary bedfellows.

Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com
Moderator http://groups.yahoo.com/group/middle_school_lit/ ( )
  richiespicks | May 9, 2015 |
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