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Good Brother, Bad Brother: The Story of Edwin Booth and John Wilkes Booth
     

Good Brother, Bad Brother: The Story of Edwin Booth and John Wilkes Booth

by James Cross Giblin
 

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On April 14, 1865, five days after the end of the Civil War, John Wilkes Booth fired a single shot and changed the course of American history. His infamous deed cost him his life and brought notoriety and shame to his family-particularly his elder brother, the renowned actor Edwin Booth. From that day forward, Edwin would be known as "the brother of the man who killed

Overview

On April 14, 1865, five days after the end of the Civil War, John Wilkes Booth fired a single shot and changed the course of American history. His infamous deed cost him his life and brought notoriety and shame to his family-particularly his elder brother, the renowned actor Edwin Booth. From that day forward, Edwin would be known as "the brother of the man who killed President Lincoln."

In many ways, the Booth brothers were two of a kind. They were among America's finest actors, having inherited from their father, Junius Brutus Booth, a commanding stage presence and a rich, expressive voice. They also inherited Junius's penchant for alcohol and impulsive behavior. In other respects, the two brothers were very different. Edwin's introspective nature made him the perfect actor to play Hamlet, while John, with his dashing good looks and passionate intensity, excelled in romantic roles. They also stood at opposite poles politically. Edwin voted for Abraham Lincoln; John was an ardent advocate of the Confederacy.

Award-winning author James Cross Giblin draws on first-hand accounts of family members, friends, and colleagues to create a vivid image of John Wilkes, the loving son and brother who became an assassin. Equally clear is the picture of Edwin, who battled his own weaknesses and emerged a pivotal figure in the development of the American theater.

Comprehensive and compelling, this dual portrait illuminates a dark and tragic moment in the nation's history and explores the complex legacy of two leading men-one revered, the other abhorred.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Greg M. Romaneck
When John Wilkes Booth murdered Abraham Lincoln, he not only fundamentally changed the political future of the United States, he also immensely altered the lives of his own family members. In assassinating the President of the United States, Booth did something that had never been done in American history. In addition, he set the stage for his own death at the hands of federal troops and changed the course of his mother’s and sibling’s lives. In this fascinating dual biography, author James Cross Giblin chronicles the paths that led two brothers to that point in their lives. First is Edwin Booth, a leading classical actor of the age and a Union supporter who voted for President Lincoln. Then, we have John Wilkes Booth, Edwin’s younger brother. A fine stage actor in his own right, he was a rabid supporter of the Confederacy. In a very real sense, John Wilkes Booth killed not only the President but also his family’s dreams of future glory. It took years for Edwin to recover his standing not only as a performer but also as a loyal American. As for the younger Booth brother, his actions marked him as one the worst villains in the nation’s history and secured his reputation as a man whose horrific actions remain a dark page in the American saga. The story of these brothers’ oppositional journeys to a shared destiny is one that will educate and inform readers about a subject that remains important in a divided society. Reviewer: Greg M. Romaneck; Ages 12 up.
Children's Literature
Giblin has contributed many fine informational books to children's literature; this one is no exception. As he points out, almost everyone knows John Wilkes Booth killed Abraham Lincoln, but few young readers are aware of his brother, actor Edwin Booth. The brothers were sons of famous thespian, Junius Brutus Booth, and brothers to Junius Brutus the younger. While Edwin did not set out to be an actor, his handsome, dashing younger sibling reveled in applause and attention. Both became accomplished actors, earning praise alike for comedy and leading Shakespearean roles. The outbreak of Civil War led to a serious breach between them and eventually to John's obsession with the Confederate cause. Giblin reveals that John used part of his considerable earnings to buy forbidden supplies for the South, may have spied, and certainly hatched several plots to kidnap Lincoln before his final plot to assassinate the President. Especially compelling is the unfolding of that plot, its conspirators and their fates, enhanced by Alexander Gardner's haunting photographs of the men (and one woman) and the hanging of four of them. American history buffs will have a hard time putting down this fascinating story of two very different brothers whose lives diverged so sharply, one committing a hideous crime and the other suffering its effects the rest of his life. Edwin's character is the more deeply probed; this biography may well lead readers to further research about American theater in the nineteenth century and Edwin Booth's many contributions to his beloved profession. 2005, Clarion, Ages 10 to 14.
—Barbara L. Talcroft
VOYA
One of the most notorious names in American history is John Wilkes Booth, who in 1865 assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. Few readers know the illustrious background of the Booth family and its place in the annals of American theater. Focusing on the divergent paths taken by the two talented Booth brothers, John and his older brother Edwin, Giblin offers an interesting glimpse into the deeply passionate schism dividing both country and family. Junius Brutus Booth, theatrical patriarch of the family, was hailed both as genius and madman. Edwin became his father's companion and watchdog, joining his father's traveling theater troupe at the young age of thirteen. John, his parents' favorite from birth, remained at home, doted upon by his older sister and mother. Edwin became one of the finest classical actors of his time. John, also a fine actor and ladies man, was "overwhelmed by his irrational hatred of President Lincoln" and became one of the most reviled figures in American history. Chock-full of photos and illustrations, this resource is a tantalizing window into America's political and social past, with much to interest history buffs. One jarring aspect in an otherwise fascinating biography is the frequent use of unauthenticated conversation and thoughts attributed to specific people. Nevertheless it is a worthy purchase for most collections. VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P J S (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2005, Clarion, 256p.; Index. Photos. Biblio. Source Notes., $22. Ages 12 to 18.
—Marian Rafal
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-Actors Edwin and John Wilkes Booth each had a compelling stage presence and a fondness for alcohol, just like their famous father, Junius. Edwin spent his life perfecting his craft and building a reputation as the finest classical actor of his time. John was impulsive, popular with the ladies, and best known today as the man who assassinated Abraham Lincoln. The text is carefully researched, drawing heavily on firsthand accounts from family members and liberally illustrated with photographs, most from the Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library. The writing is engaging and eminently readable, and presents history in a manner that is, in essence, consummate storytelling. Giblin traces the events leading up to the assassination, discussing the Civil War, John Wilkes Booth's love for the Confederacy, and the plots he and his colleagues hatched to kidnap Lincoln. The effects that the assassination had on the country, and his family, are clearly presented. The search for Booth and his coconspirators rivals the excitement of police procedurals as Giblin chronicles efforts by law enforcement to bring the group to justice. Edwin's later life and his contributions to American theater are discussed. Behind all his successes, however, stood the ghost of his brother John, and the act that would forever link the Booth name with disgrace. What a story! This is nonfiction at its finest.-Jennifer Ralston, Harford County Public Library, Belcamp, MD Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
* "Giblin is brilliant . . . breathtaking clarity . . . readers will be engrossed until the very last footnote."
—Booklist,starred review
 
"Giblin raises his biographical curtain . . . opens a wealth of avenues for further reading . . . put[s] faces to the history."
—Horn Book
 

• "The writing is engaging and eminently readable . . . consummate storytelling. What a story! This is nonfiction at its finest."
—School Library Journal, starred review
 

• "Compelling . . . fascinating biography of brothers during a time of war . . . readable and interesting."
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
 
"[A] dual biography by a master of the art . . . Giblin weaves high drama."
—The Washington Post Book World
 
"[Giblin] offers a particularly poignant picture . . . relates the fraternal saga with verve as well as diligence."
—Bulletin


 

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780544809741
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
01/10/2017
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
203,240
Product dimensions:
7.40(w) x 9.90(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
10 - 12 Years

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"Giblin is brilliant...breathtaking clarity...readers will be engrossed until the very last footnote." BOOKLIST, starred review

Booklist, ALA, Starred Review

"Giblin raises his biographical curtain....opens a wealth of avenues for further reading...put[s] faces to the history." HORN BOOK Horn Book

"The writing is engaging and eminently readable...consummate storytelling. What a story! This is nonfiction at its finest." SLJ, starred School Library Journal, Starred

"Compelling...fascinating biography of brothers during a time of war....readable and interesting." KIRKUS, starred Kirkus Reviews, Starred

"[A] dual biography by a master of the art...Giblin weaves high drama." The Washington Post BOOK WORLD The Washington Post

"Giblin...offers a particularly poignant picture...relates the fraternal saga with verve as well as diligence." BCCB Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Meet the Author

James Cross Giblin is the author of more than 20 critically acclaimed books for young people. His most recent book for Clarion, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, received the Robert F. Sibert Award for Informational Books. Mr. Giblin lives in New York City.

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