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Forbes was the author of six historical novels and four books of nonfiction for adults, as well as the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in history in 1942 for her adult biography, Paul Revere and the World He Lived In Paul Revere and the World He Lived In (1942). Yet Forbes's reputation is primarily as a children's writer, resting particularly on Johnny Tremain (1942), an offshoot of her research for the adult Paul Revere biography and considered by many the best example of historical fiction ever written for children. Johnny Tremain follows the story of a silversmith's apprentice as he stumbles into the American Revolution and gains insight into his own character. In writing about the life of an ordinary citizen of Boston at that time, Forbes wanted to show, in her words, "not merely what was done but why and how people felt." Originally intending to keep Johnny neutral during the Revolution, she changed her mind as a result of the advent of World War II, because she saw parallels between the two wars and wanted to show young readers those parallels. Although this may have resulted in some pushing of contemporary ideology onto a historical setting, most critics have praised the story's accuracy. It was and remains an important book for promoting the idea that young readers can grasp mature writing. Forbes's only other book for children, America's Paul Revere, summarizes that man's life. (Bowker Author Biography)
— biography from Johnny Tremain: A Story of Boston in Revolt
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Esther Forbes grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts, was one of the first girls to attended the Bancroft School, and then went to Bradford Academy, a junior college in Bradford, Massachusetts. After graduating in 1912, she joined her older sisters Cornelia and Katherine in Madison, Wisconsin, where she took history classes at the University of Wisconsin. She also joined the editorial board of the Wisconsin Literary Magazine. She published her first short story in 1915. In 1919, she returned to Massachusetts and began working for the editorial department of the Houghton Mifflin Company in Boston. From 1924-1926. she wrote feature articles for the Boston Evening Transcript. In 1926, she married Albert L. Hoskins, Jr., an attorney, and moved with him to New York City. Esther's first novel, O Genteel Lady! was published in 1926 and selected for the Book of the Month Club. A Mirror for Witches was published two years later. In 1933, Esther and her husband divorced, and although she retained her married name, she continued to write under her birth name of Esther Forbes. She returned to Worcester and lived with her mother and unmarried siblings. Esther's mother Harriette Merrifield Forbes, was an historian who assisted her daughter in some of her research for her books. Esther published several further historical novels during this period, including Miss Marvel (1935) and The General's Lady (1938). Most of her books were set in New England from colonial times through the early years of the new republic. In a break from fiction, Esther wrote a biography of Paul Revere, still considered a definitive work by scholars, for which she received the Pulitzer Prize in History in 1943. It helped inspire what became her best-known work, the novel Johnny Tremain (1943), for which she received the Newbery Award in 1944. Esther was elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 1960, became the first woman elected to the American Antiquarian Society. Her novel Rainbow on the Road (1955) was later turned into a Broadway musical under the title Come Summer (1969).
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