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The Matchlock Gun Paperback – November 23, 1998

66 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 7 - 10 years
  • Grade Level: 2 - 5
  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin Books; Reprint edition (November 23, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0698116801
  • ISBN-13: 978-0698116801
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,542 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

122 of 126 people found the following review helpful By Library Gaga on November 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book is currently being criticized for its negative, stereotypical depiction of Native Americans. The forward explained that the characters were real people. The Van Alstyne family actually lived and experienced the story's events. Teunis and Gertrude, the mother and father of Trudy and Edward, trekked from Holland, to England, and finally to America to be free. The year was 1757, when Native Americans were aiding the French in the French and Indian War.

Edward is the small boy whose actions during an attack on their home by St. Francis Indians provide the central action. The matchlock gun is a huge antique that rests above the fireplace. It has a trumpet-like barrel like a blunderbuss and is too big for Edward to pick up. Before Teunis goes out on a military foray, he shows Edward how to prop up the gun on the table and light it in the event of an Indian attack.

Sure enough, Indians attack while Teunis is gone. Gertrude is outside at the time and runs for the house in a pre-arranged scheme of defense. When she gains the porch she screams "Ateoord!," ("Edward!") the cue for Edward to light the gun. He does, but not in time to save his mother from being tomahawked in the shoulder. The gun blasts and kills the three Indians.

I believe the criticism of this book is unwarranted, especially since it relates a true story of adult men attempting to murder a woman and two children in their home. I regard true events as immune to political correctness. In addition to this, it offers a fascinating account of a period in American history that is usually overlooked.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Mazza HALL OF FAME on March 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
"The Matchlock Gun," by Walter D. Edmonds, features illustrations by Paul Lantz. The copyright page notes that this book was originally published in 1941. The entire book is about 80 pages long; the main text is 62 pages long and is divided into ten chapters. In his foreword Edmonds establishes the setting of the book: the French and Indian War in colonial America. The tale looks at the war's impact on the Van Alstyne family: husband Teunis, wife Gertrude, 10-year old son Edward, and 6-year old daughter Trudy. Teunis, "a true Dutchman," is a militia captain. The tale's first chapter establishes Edward's fascination with the gun of the title, a massive Spanish weapon that hangs over the mantel.

Edmonds has crafted a simple but suspenseful tale of life in what one character calls "the wild America" during wartime. He appeals to the senses with vivid details such as the smell from butter churning. The book also gives a glimpse into his characters' domestic and social lives. Despite its short length, this is a rich text that touches on such themes as advancing weapons technology, the Dutch cultural presence in colonial America, and--most importantly--the impact of war upon families. Edward is an appealing young hero. A short author bio at the end of the book notes that Edmonds was born in upper New York State and that in 1942 this book received the Newbery Medal.
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44 of 51 people found the following review helpful By CD on October 27, 2004
Format: Paperback
I had a difficult time locating this book, even though it is a Newberry Winner. Why? Because it depicts Indians in a historically correct manner. There are historically correct stories that depict Indians favorably, such as The Courage of Sarah Noble. Then, there is this story depicting the Indian raids that did occur during the time of the settlers. Let's hope that we are mature enough to face history - the way it is - not in the glossy versions that try to erase the variables in character that exist in every race.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Ebeling on January 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Winner of the 1942 John Newbery Medal for most significant contribution to children's literature, "The Matchlock Gun" is one of the shortest--yet one of the most memorable--of all the Newbery Medal books. I've read every one of the Newbery books from 1922 through 2000, and this little story made a big impression on me. The novel covers but a day in the life of a very young boy who is left at home with the huge responsibility of safeguarding his family in the absence of his father.
SYNOPSIS: Edward ("Ateoord" in the story) Van Alstyne's father, Teunis, is a captain in the Guilderland militia and leaves the family overnight to defend their small community outside Albany City, NY against the French and Indians. The militia is unable to hold the Indians at the bridge, however, and five Indians reach the Van Alstyne farm.
Gertrude (Edward's mother) has the foresight to rig up her grandfather's heavy, awkward Spanish matchlock gun through a hole in the window shutter and acts as a decoy, picking beans in the garden, until the Indians reach the house. Edward must then defend his wounded mother and protect his family with the huge, ungainly weapon.
IMPRESSIONS: Today it is quite seldom that extremely young children must bear adult responsibilities in the face of such danger. Historical fiction like this is compelling reading; "The Matchlock Gun" is a very brief but well-written story which should interest any young reader.
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