My Brother Sam Is Dead

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Book Cover
My Brother Sam Is Dead cover.jpg
Author James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
Country United States
Language English
Genre Historical fiction
Publisher Scholastic
Publication date
Media type Print (Paperback)
Pages 218 pg.
ISBN ISBN 0-590-42792-X
OCLC 20572784

My Brother Sam Is Dead (1974) is a young adult historical fiction novel by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier. The book realistically depicts what happened in the American Revolution. It is a Newbery Honor book that was also named an ALA Notable Children's Book and nominated for a National Book Award in 1975.The ALA reports that My Brother Sam is Dead was the twelfth most frequently challenged book in the period from 1990 to 2000,[1] and the 27th most challenged book from 2000 to 2009.[2]

Plot Summary[edit]

Tim Meeker is a young boy who lives in the town of Redding, Connecticut around the time the American Revolution begins. Tim does not exactly care about politics, but his father is a loyalist to Great Britain, much like the rest of Redding. Tim's entire family welcomes his brave and head-strong teenage brother, Sam, when he returns from Yale. However, his father is outraged when he learns that Sam has joined the Continental Army to fight against the British.

Sam is not afraid to voice his opinions, and this causes him to eventually be forced out from the family tavern (their home and business). After this, Sam steals his father's Brown Bess to use as a weapon during battles. Sam leaves Redding to fight. At home, things become harder, gradually separating the family. On Sam's rare visits home, Tim is the only one who talks with him.

In one instance, Tim delivers a "business letter" to New York for a "moderate" neighbor against his father's wishes. Sam's girlfriend opens the letter, which says "If you receive this message, then the messenger is reliable." The note was a test note, meaning that future letters will be spy reports on soldiers. Tim throws it away.

While on a trip with his father to sell beef to loyalists in New York, they are stopped by a band of brigands who presumably abduct him. Tim goes home, and watches one of his friends be decapitated, and another friend get captured by the British. Tim begins to have stronger feelings about the two sides.

The next year Tim finds out that his father and friend have died on a prison ship due to an outbreak of cholera. After this, Tim's mother begins to drink heavily. Meanwhile, prices of food and drink go up and the Redcoats even show up in Redding to seize weapons and fight the few Patriots there.

The last time Sam returns, he is framed for stealing cattle. His own army executes him as a warning to soldiers who might do the same thing if faced by extreme hunger.

The story then cuts to 1826, where Tim reveals he has survived the Revolution. He has written the story to tell what life was like during the war. He mourns Sam, and then reveals he has a happy life. Even though life in the old days was hard, Sam and Tim made it seem easy.


  • Sam Meeker: A high-strung 16-year-old who joins the Continental Army to fight for his principles against his family's wishes. Sam is executed by his own army after being falsely accused of stealing his own family's cattle.
  • Tim Meeker: Sam's brother and the narrator of the story. Although younger than Sam, Tim frequently comes across as more mature and responsible. Faces difficulty choosing between his father's ideas and Sam's. Tim is also afraid to voice his own opinions.
  • Eliphalet "Life" Meeker (also called Father and Mr. Meeker): Tim and Sam's father, Life is a pacifist. During a trip to sell beef, he is captured by the Rebels, because they believe he's selling beef to the British. He ends up dying on a British prison ship from an outbreak of epidemic cholera.
  • Susannah Meeker (Also called Mother and Mrs. Meeker): Tim and Sam's mother, who is very religious and hardworking. She takes over running the tavern and starts to drink heavily after Life dies.
  • Tom Warrups: Native American man whose hut Sam stays at when coming home to Redding, Connecticut. Sam also hides his Father's Brown Bess there.
  • Betsy Read: A young woman who belongs to a Patriot family. Also Sam's girlfriend. Comes to the tavern regularly for beer and rum.
  • Jerry Sanford: A young local boy and a friend of Tim's. Jerry is captured by the British and dies on a prison ship.
  • General Israel Putnam: Commander of the Continental Army that stays in Redding. General Putnam sentences Sam to death.
  • Dr. Hobart: One of Redding's many doctors.
  • Ned the Slave: A slave that lives in Redding.


My Brother Sam Is Dead currently has four stars on, indicating generally positive reviews.

In popular culture[edit]

The song 'Sam Is Dead' by Tyler, The Creator and Domo Genesis (of Odd Future) is titled after the novel.


External links[edit]