All his life, Tim Meeker has looked up to his brother Sam. Sam's smart and brave -- and is now a part of the American Revolution. Not everyone in town wants to be a part of the rebellion. Most are supporters of the British -- including Tim and Sam's father. With the war soon raging, Tim know he'll have to make a choice -- between the Revolutionaries and the Redcoats . . . and between his brother and his father.
Tim Meeker worships his rebellious older brother, Sam, a sixteen-year-old student at Yale who tells great stories about girls and getting drunk with his friends. But when Sam comes home in April, 1775, and announces that he has joined the Continental Army, their Tory father disowns him. Tim is soon faced with the kind of insoluble problem that fills the book: Sam swears him to secrecy, and then tells him that because he cannot fight without a weapon, he has come to take the long gun their father uses for hunting and protection. Tim's allegiance is torn between father and brother, Tory neighbor and Patriot neighbor, loyalty to British rule and desire for freedom from it. For over a year, the war itself goes on without directly affecting the town of Redding where Tim's family runs the local tavern. But in November, 1776, Tim's father takes him along when he drives cattle to market on the Hudson River. On the way back, Mr. Meeker, who is unarmed, is kidnapped and taken to a British prison ship where he later dies of cholera. The next spring, British soldiers raid the area, taking prisoners and killing a few civilians. But things are not much better when the Continental Army arrives in December, 1778, even though Sam is with them. The hardships of war bring increasing hunger and fear to the citizens, and Tim's world is shattered when Sam is unjustly accused of stealing cattle. His own superiorsthough they know the charge is probably a liesentence him to be shot. Tim tries his best to save Sam, but he fails. This compelling book's refusal to romanticize the Revolutionary War makes a powerful statement about the failings of both sides, and by extension, the failings of all wars. Abrief epilogue, lacking the power of the rest of the book, tells of Tim's later life in the free United States. The end materials include a discussion of the historical background of the book, an interview with Christopher Collier, a time line of the novel, and descriptions of revolutionary games. 2005 (orig. 1974), Scholastic, Ages 12 up.