Study Guide

My Brother Sam Is Dead

By James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

My Brother Sam Is Dead Introduction

Shmoopers, we've got a question for you. What do Ferris Bueller, the Weasley twins, and Mulan have in common?

Awesome hair. Check.
Parental disobedience. Check.
A penchant for breaking the rules. Check.

And what does all this add up to? These folks are teenage rebels.

Well, we've got another rebel for you to add to the list: meet Sam Meeker. He's doing teenage rebellion Revolutionary War.

Brothers James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier published My Brother Sam Is Dead in 1974, introducing us to Sam and his younger brother, Tim. Here's the sitch: Sam's dad is a Loyalist. This means that he supports England and doesn't want freedom for the colonies. Well watch out Papa Meeker because you're in for a surprise: Sam decides to join up with the Continental Army. This means he's going to fight for the American colonies to be free from England. This disagreement puts younger brother Tim in a pretty tough spot while big bro is away.

And the rebellion isn't just in the plot; even the book is a bit on the rebellious side. It's spent quite a few years on lists of banned books, mainly because it's filled with violence (don't say we didn't warn you).

But folks have been enjoying Tim and Sam's tale ever since My Brother Sam Is Dead was published. It packs some historical punch, but it also pulls on the heartstrings without missing a beat. And that's not just our opinion; My Brother Sam Is Dead was named a Newbery Honor book and a National Book Award finalist. We say it's about time you give it a shot.

What is My Brother Sam Is Dead About and Why Should I Care?

Shmoop hates making choices.

Well, not when those choices involve ice cream (although that can be super stressful, too). We're talking Big Deal choices, like where to go to college.

And if there's one guy out there who knows just how tough decisions can be, it's Tim Meeker. This fellow has to make one of the toughest choices ever.

You see, Tim grows up during the American Revolutionary War, and he has to decide if he's going to be on Team English Nation (and support the country he's a citizen of) or Team American Colonies (and fight for freedom from England). Oh, and this choice gets even tougher because Tim's dad supports England, and his brother Sam joins the army to fight for America. Yep, this decision is quite the pickle. In fact, we think Tim has one of the sourest pickles out there.

Tim's difficult decision is no picnic, but it reminds us here at Shmoop that we, too, can make it through those tough choices. It also reminds us it could be worse. Just saying.

My Brother Sam Is Dead Resources


Well Hello There Mr. Collier and Mr. Collier
Learn a bit about the brothers who created Tim, Sam, and the stories behind the Meeker clan. Start with Christopher and then head on over to James.

Articles and Interviews

Christopher Collier's Got Something to Say, and He's Not Watering It Down
Take a look at this New York Times article about Collier's attitude towards history. We'll give you a hint: this man isn't interested in being politically correct.

It's No Secret: James Lincoln Collier Likes to Read
Collier had a favorite author when he was a teen, and his name is Thomas Wolfe. Check out what Collier has to say about discovering these books.


Who Fired the First Shot? Anyone Got an Answer? Seriously, Anyone?
My Brother Sam Is Dead starts out with a pretty incredible historical story: the Battle of Lexington and Concord. In the book, we hear the story through Sam's words. Check out this History Channel video on the battle to see if Sam got his facts right.

Sammy and Mr. M Duke It Out
Watch this short video to see one funny take on Sam and his dad's relationship. Do you agree with their portrayal?


Chillin in Colonial Garb
Check out this cover for My Brother Sam Is Dead. Maybe those hats should come back in style.

Where in the World is Redding, Connecticut?
We've dug up a map that lays out all the main locations from My Brother Sam Is Dead. Take a peek and see if you can figure out where Meeker Tavern should be.

To Verplancks Point We Go!
Take a look at this old-timey map of Verplancks Point, the trading city that Tim visits with his dad.