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Good Brother, Bad Brother: The Story of Edwin Booth and John Wilkes Booth Hardcover – May 23, 2005


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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 5-8. Giblin never forgets the "story" part of history. In this absorbing narrative, he frames the intertwined tale of two brothers with accounts of their families, friends, the Civil War, and ninteenth-century theater. Edwin and John Wilkes were sons of Junius Booth, also a famed actor, and Edwin learned his craft in part as a young teen, traveling with his touring father to keep him from drinking too much. Alcoholism and depression afflicted the family, but Giblin is brilliant at showing that darkness was only one part of a life. Edwin's support of the North and John Wilkes' passion for the Southern cause drove a wedge in the family, and John Wilkes' assassination of Lincoln--plotted out for readers from historical documents with breathtaking clarity--haunted Edwin and his family. With settings that range from Australia to Germany, from New York to San Francisco, each vividly reconstructed, Giblin's book will engross readers until the very last footnote. GraceAnne DeCandido
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 14 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 9
  • Lexile Measure: 1130L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Clarion Books; First Edition edition (May 23, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618096426
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618096428
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 7.8 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #278,700 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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I have suggested others should read it.
colleen schuster
This book is one of the BEST I have ever read on the lincoln assassination; it is informative and interesting and extremely well written.
Ralph DeMattia
This book is more thoughtful, and it makes clear exactly how big the celebrity of John Wilkes Booth and his brother Edwin really was.
M. Heiss

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By mwreview on August 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A notation in Good Brother, Bad Brother suggests that it is for readers aged 10-14, but I found it to be interesting and informative for even well-read adults and, although the writing style may be more geared towards a younger audience, it includes some nice analysis and even a little intrigue. James Cross Giblin covers Edwin more thoroughly--he lived longer, of course-from his youthful days accompanying his famous father actor Junius Brutus Booth on his theatrical tours to the beginnings of Edwin's stage career, his sometimes heated relationship with younger brother John Wilkes, fears about his future after the assassination and how the assassination continued to affect him throughout his life, his post-assassination career including the Booth Theatre and The Players club, his troubling second marriage, to his death. The chapters on John Wilkes Booth include information and reviews on his brief acting career but, of course, focus on his fanaticism with the southern cause and his conspiracy plans to kidnap (which later escalated to killing) President Lincoln.

Giblin uses many sources (including the fairly recent publication of JWB's writings) to draw a very thorough overview of the lives of the brothers. A comparison of the different acting styles of the brothers are described (pg. 73), the impact John Brown's hanging had on JWB is shown with a nice brief description of the event (pp. 55-7), the efforts on the part of the Booth family (including Edwin) to obtain the remains of JWB for burial is demonstrated through passages of family letters to the government (pp. 166, 173-7), etc. The author also explains the political-military situation at the time to provide background to JWB's infamous act.
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Format: Hardcover
Good Brother, Bad Brother by James Cross Giblin provides an interesting contrast between the two famous Booth brothers: John Wilkes Booth and Edwin Booth. Most people know that John Wilkes is the assassin of Abraham Lincoln. Just as many are not aware that Edwin Booth was one of the most famous Shakespearian actors in America. Some claim that he was the greatest Shakespearian actor, ever. While I didn't learn much new about John Wilkes, I did find the life of Edwin to be fascinating.

Father Junius Booth came from England and established himself as an actor in America. He settled in Maryland, married Mary Ann Holmes. Together, they produced ten children. Junius had a drinking problem which affected his acting, so Mary Ann sent one of her sons along when her husband was on tour to serve as a chaperone. Eventually, this job fell to young Edwin, allowing him to learn the acting profession. He started taking small roles until he eventually surpassed his father in fame and success. John Wilkes also took to the acting profession, although he never would achieve the success of his older brother.

John Wilkes and Edwin couldn't have been more different. Edwin was understated, humble and a Union man. John Wilkes was over-the-top, spoiled, vain and a strong Confederate sympathizer. After Lincoln's assassination, the Booth family was mortified and Edwin was forced to give up acting for a spell. Giblin spends much time going into the details of the assassination including the planning, the cast of characters, and the aftermath. But what I found most interesting was Edwin's background. Acting and the theatre were very different in the 1800s. Many actors had to run their own theatres, produce their own plays and supply their own costumes.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John J. Beckert on September 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
An excellent read! Having read most of the books listed in the bibliography, I can say this book weaves all the stories, letters and folklore into a comprehensive, factual account of the Booth brother's lives. It was especially humbling and enlightening to see how John Wilkes Booth's act haunted Edwin for the rest of his life and never left his psyche. Also, how he triumphed over this and left a legacy in both the theater and his family that proved his talents could overide the ghosts that haunted him.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. L. Rainone on March 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is hard to believe that there could be a better written, more compelling study of the Booth siblings than in Good Brother, Bad Brother. James Cross Giblin skillfully details the history of the Booth family and chronicles the events that helped shaped the family dynamics. Although it is considered a children's book, I would not hesitate to recommend it to adults. Good Brother, Bad Brother is a family tragedy, but more importantly, a testament to the power of love and kindness. It will haunt you long after you have closed it's pages.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ralph DeMattia on September 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I picked this book up in my local library, preparing to be bored by it's being a Young Adult book, but after reading the first chapter, I was so impressed that I went over to one of the library's computers and ordered it from Amazon. That was in 2005, and I read it at least twice a year. It is G O O D ! VERY good! It is intensly informative without the superfluous adjectives and repetative words that seem to permeate so many adult books, leading to to have formed the opinion LONG ago that authors get paid more the longer a book is.
This book is one of the BEST I have ever read on the lincoln assassination; it is informative and interesting and extremely well written. It would make a great FIRST book on the assassination, or the last. If you'd like a book that gets right to the point, doesn't preach; yet tells the story without unneccessary fluff, this one is it for you! IT'S GREAT!!!!
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