My Brother Sam Is Dead makes one thing crystal clear: war stinks. Big time. In the novel, the Revolutionary War leads to a whole bunch of deaths, many of which are seriously gruesome. We're talking the stuff of nightmares here. Kids, adults, and everyone in between is in danger. But remember, the violence comes from both sides of the conflict; it's almost as if the authors aren't quite taking a side… are they? And while we're at it, would you say the authors are even squarely in camp anti-war? All we know is that this is some genuinely complicated stuff.
Down with war! Mr. Meeker hates the war no matter who wins. In the end, the book argues that war isn't worth the cost.
Let's go to war! Sam's dedication to the war means that he's willing to die for freedom, and the book says this is a good thing.
When it comes to family drama, the Meekers are the masters. Looking for a family with screaming political fights at the dinner table? Sam and Mr. M are here to deliver. Or perhaps you're in the mood for some shouting and storming off? All the Meeker family members get the chance to slam a door at one point or another. But even with all this fighting, the Meekers still love each other. Yep, we said it: there's a lot of love in My Brother Sam Is Dead. It's just sometimes you have to look deep down to find it.
Tim needs his family. The novel argues that Tim can't go it alone, so it's good that he keeps his family close.
Sam gets along just fine on his own. The novel argues that family is nice, but not necessary.
You know when you have to give a presentation in class or you have a band concert and you freak out a little before? Sometimes, day to day stuff can take a lot of courage. Now imagine how much truer that would have been during the Revolutionary War. Boatloads of scary situations crop up in My Brother Sam Is Dead, from creepy cowboys to violent battles. Sometimes, Tim and Sam are shaking in their boots, and other times, they show oodles of courage. In the end, the big test is: will the courage outweigh the fear? We're thinking definitely.
Tim oozes courage when he needs to, and it helps him survive.
It's okay to be scared. Tim is frightened a lot, but that doesn't stop him from having courage, too.
In My Brother Sam Is Dead, sometimes deceit just comes in the form of little white lies. Remember how Tim tells his dad he's helping Jerry when he's actually visiting Sam? That time, no one gets hurt. But sometimes they're big, huge, stab-your-fellow-soldier-in-the-back lies. When those two Continental soldiers say that Sam was the real cow-thief, that's quite a whopper. And it has really big consequences. There are all sorts of lies in this book, and all this deceit has Tim wondering: how does he figure out who is lying and who is telling the truth?
Lying is just plain wrong. The book argues that lying can get innocent people killed, so you should never ever do it.
Sometimes lying is necessary. The book argues that there are times when you need to lie, and that's okay.
Patriotism just means loving your country. Seems simple enough, right? Well, in My Brother Sam Is Dead, it couldn't be more complicated. See, Sam loves America, and he wants to fight for his country. In fact, he's even willing to die for his country. But Sam also thinks of himself as a Patriot with a capital P—that's the term that supporters of freedom for the American Colonies called themselves. But what about the Loyalists who supported England? Can they be patriotic too? They may not be Patriots, but they can definitely be patriotic. See what we mean? Patriotism isn't always as simple as Sam thinks.
Patriotism is a good thing in this book. Sam is willing to die for his country, and the authors want us to respect that.
My Brother Sam Is Dead argues that patriotism corrupts innocent young minds. All you need to do is look at what happened to Sam: being a patriot didn't work out so well for him.
Wouldn't it be nice if Sam and Tim got to grow up in a pretty green pasture with butterflies and unicorns? Yeah, that's not happening for our Meeker brothers. Instead, they get to grow up during the Revolutionary War. And there's one thing we know for sure: the war makes these boys grow up quickly. For Sam, growing up means making his own decisions and running away from home. For Tim, it means helping his mom out around the tavern. Both brothers have plenty of struggles to mature. By the end of My Brother Sam Is Dead, do you think either one succeeds?
Tim should have held on to his childhood. The book argues that the war makes Tim grow up way too quickly.
Tim becomes an adult just in the nick of time. The book supports Tim's growth, even if it is because of the war.
Duties come in all shapes and sizes in My Brother Sam Is Dead. For Tim, sometimes his duties mean obeying his parents or doing his chores. No big deal, right? But sometimes it's about making tough decisions. Does Tim want to put his responsibilities to his family first? Or should he be like Sam and prioritize his duty to serve his country? Sorry, Tim—those aren't going to be easy decisions to make. You can't please everyone, and by the end of the book, Tim is going to find this out for himself.
Nation is number one. Sam chooses to defend his country, even if it means putting his family second, and that's the way it should be.
Family comes first. Tim puts his family over his country, and that's the right decision.
What's the first thing you think of when it comes to Colonial America? Perhaps it's funny little bonnets. Or maybe churning butter. Well, we don't get many bonnets or much butter in My Brother Sam Is Dead, but we're right in the thick of Colonial America. It might be pretty (like, really pretty), but it's definitely a ton of work—we're talking serious back-breaking oxen-herding work here. And of course, we're looking at a war-ridden area here. So despite that quaint picture we have in our heads of Colonial New England, we have to remember that it wasn't just rainbows and butterflies.
America rocks. Tim loves how pretty America is so he's totally sold that it's a great place to live.
America is too much hard work. Seriously, there's a lot of work to do in these colonies and Tim isn't sure he likes it.