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Why is My Brother Sam is Dead Challenged

My Brother Sam is Dead is challenged by individuals who have not read it. If they read it, they would have a better understanding of it and embrace it.

But that's not the answer you have visited this page for... is it? You want to know how and why the novel earned a top 10 listing on the American Way's most challenged book list in 1996.

The book is challenged because it:

  • Contains profanity: In reaction to being smacked in the head by Tim Meeker as she tries to wrestle a letter away from him, Betsy Read shouts "You Little Bastard!"

  • Contains excessive violence: While observing the British army Tim Meeker experiences the horrific beheading of a slave.

  • Mentions alcohol consumption: The Meeker's own a Tavern.

  • Contains unpatriotic views of the American Revolution: The Meeker's are Anglican's.

In response to these challenges let me point out that:

  • The book contains profanity because the authors are trying to provide us with a realistic portrayal of life during the American Revolution. There were conflicting opinions and there were heated discussions, during which, people actually (gasp) swore at each other.

  • The violence Tim experiences is in response to the British troops being fired at. Four individuals take "pot-shots" at the British Troops as they march by. The British respond by rushing the house, subduing the individuals and locking them in the basement. In the process one resists and is decapitated. The British then set the house on fire. This scene is historically correct. It happened, it occurred in Danbury not Redding, but it did happen. The point the authors were making here is that War is Cruel and People Die. While I admit that the beheading is a bit excessive for a children's novel it is not worthy of censor.

  • Alcohol consumption is no reason to censor a novel as important as My Brother Sam is Dead. The Meeker's own and operate a Tavern. And alcohol consumption by all, young and old, is also historically correct. They all drank alcohol, honest, look it up.

  • Contains unpatriotic views of the American Revolution. This one is my personal favorite. When Susannah Meeker states: "Bah, patriotism. Your patriotism has got my husband in prison and one of my children out there in the rain and muck shooting people and likely to be dead any minute, and my business is half ruined. Go sell your patriotism elsewhere, I've had enough of it." she has had it. It's a response anyone of us would have if we were placed in the same position.

    Susannah Meeker has lost her husband, she's working 24/7 and being paid in currency that is literally worthless, she is Anglican and doesn't want to be in this war to begin with, she fears for her eldest son's life and knows that her youngest son is being deprived of his childhood as he tries to help her keep their business afloat.

The topics covered in this book are important and well represented historically speaking. Christopher Collier was Connecticut's State Historian for a very long time, he knew the issues, the localities, the facts. James Lincoln Collier wrote childrens stories, he knew how to write in a way that captivated the attention of young people. Between the two of them they were very talented. What I love most about My Brother Sam is Dead is it's realism. I was born and raised in Redding, Connecticut. I know it's history well, and can tell you the Collier brothers wove an amazing tale here and it should be embraced not censored.

Download a My Brother Sam is Dead Parent Letter a 5th grade Teacher sends out to parents each year.

Read actual quotes from 6th graders that have read the book, loved it and visited Redding to learn more about it:

"I would never think that Connecticut would have that much interesting history! Thank you so much for taking us through Redding, showing us the great locations from My Brother Sam is Dead and answering our questions."

"What I learned while on this trip was more about the characters, for example they said in the book that Jerry was a 10 year old boy but he was really 19 and we learned more about the huts they (the soldiers) slept in. Also I saw what we read in the book. I thought that was very cool!!"

The novel highlights many of the the problems and events that impacted towns like Redding, CT. Several of these topics are:

  • Trying to stay neutral while living in a town that everyone assumes is a loyalist settlement. Redding's Anglican church leader and its members preferred not to rebel from England. This was well known across the State and resulted in Redding Ridge being labeled as an area heavily settled with loyalists/tories.

  • Currency Issues-The Meeker's own a tavern/store, and keeping it running is hard work. Even prior to the Revolution, to make money, each year Tim's Father and brother Sam would travel to New York State to sell cattle they received from people who owed them money. During the war it becomes even more difficult as paper money and commissionary notes destroy local economies and businesses.

  • Sacrifices- Since Sam has sided with the rebels and wasn't there, Tim's responsibilities have increased ten-fold. Jobs Tim and Sam used to share all now fall on Tim's shoulders. Father (Life) takes Tim on his yearly cattle run to New York. They have to travel without a Brown Bess (musket/gun used for protection), which Sam had recently stolen. Life is captured on their return trip, leaving Tim to take care of his mother and himself for the rest of the novel. Tim is forced to grow up over night seeing he is now the man of the house, with his father in prison and Sam fighting with the patriots.

  • Committees of Safety- These committees were formed early in the war to disarm people who could potentially give aid to the British. Life is an Anglican and thus seen as a Loyalist/Tory, by the local Committee of Safety which comes to the Meeker Tavern to disarm him. When Life tells them his son has sided with the Patriots and taken his gun, they initially don't believe him and rough him up.

  • Cowboys and Skinners- Life is captured on their way back to Redding on their cattle run by cowboys. Cowboys and skinners were groups of raiders who harassed and plundered the rural districts of the boundary between American and British forces in Westchester County, New York. Westchester County, was the so-called "Neutral Ground" seeing the British were in the Bronx and the Americans in Peekskill, New York.

  • The British march though Redding and capture several Patriots there on their way to Danbury, CT to destroy the rebels/Patriot's provisions of war which were being stored there. The Patriot soldiers arrive in Redding in pursuit of the British and Sam is with them so he gets to see his mother and Tim again.

  • Winter Encampments- General Israel Putnam's division of the Continental Army encamped at Redding in the winter of 1778-1779 and Sam Meeker is a soldier in one of Putnam’s camps. One evening, Sam slips away from camp and returns home to spend time with his family. While they discuss the war and related topics, Sam hears commotion outside…Patriot soldiers are attempting to steal their cattle! When Sam intervenes he is out numbered and beaten. Back at camp he is falsely accused of and court-martialed for deserting camp and stealing cattle. General Putnam having long dealt with ill-equipped troops, deserters and traitors, feels he needs to set an example in order to maintain discipline amongst his army. Sam, unfortunately, becomes one of the two examples that winter, and is executed.

  • Hardships of War- Tim's Mother goes a little crazy due to the stress of losing her husband and son to a war she doesn't support. Tim lives to be very old. He had a wife, children, even grandchildren. But his mother never recovers from Life and Sam's deaths.

*Keep in Mind: In 1885, The Public Library of Concord, Massachusetts, banned Huckleberry Finn as "trash suitable only for slums." Censors don't always know best, I urge you to read My Brother Sam is Dead and come up with your own conclusions.

Download a My Brother Sam is Dead Parent Letter a 5th grade Teacher sends out to parents each year.


My Brother Sam is Dead Dropbox Account

Word Document that explains what is at the Dropbox: My Brother Sam is Dead Dropbox

Photo Examples of the Dropbox:
My Brother Sam is Dead Dropbox

Please feel free to email me with any questions @ bcolley@colleyweb.com.




The Setting of My Brother Sam is Dead, Redding Connecticut

Real-Life Characters portrayed in the My Brother Sam is Dead

Real-Life Events portrayed in My Brother Sam is Dead

Vocabulary used in My Brother Sam is Dead

Taverns of the Colonial Period

Camp Life and Orders Relating to Redding's Encampment

Loyalists (Tories) of Redding, CT

Cow-boys and Skinners

What is a Brown Bess?

Locations & Towns Mentioned in My Brother Sam is Dead

Colonial Money, Commissary Notes, Financing the War and Inflation Issues

Why is My Brother Sam is Dead Challenged?





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