Tommy, The Gun That Changed America


US Army officer John Taliaferro Thompson was an ordnance specialist. He had a mission: to build a weapon that would improve firepower for military and law enforcement officials. The Thompson submachine gun (aka "Tommy gun") was the weapon he conceived. What he had not planned for was its use by criminals, who not only popularized the weapon, but were one of the company's biggest buyers.

Reader Enjoyment Factors:

Exceptional, high quality photographs will entice readers to want to learn more about how the Thompson submachine gun came to become such a notorious weapon. Embedded with that is a history of gun control, which can help teens and young adults understand historical choices and political processes.

Content Awareness Factors:

The story moves from the biography of a specific weapon to recounting the criminal histories of Dillinger, et al, and it becomes harder to follow. The in-content references to current situations (e.g., Sandy Hook) are neither appropriate nor relevant.

Parent Reaction

There is a lot to absorb in this book, not the least of which is a history of gun control and the politics associated with it. The photographs and illustrations are probably the best part and tell a much better story. By midway through, the book transitions from the history of the Tommy gun to mini-biographies of John Dillinger, Lester Joseph Gillis (aka Baby Face Nelson), Homer Cummings, and J. Edgar Hoover. Although the author talked about how the media "glorified" the crime sprees and use of the Tommy gun by criminals, when she moves away from the core story - the history of the gun - she perpetuates that glorification in the way she presents the material.

Type of Book:
This is an illustrated nonfiction history for middle grade and young adults.
Educational Themes:

There is a lot of material about gun control-related issues that can be extracted for discussion. There is the context of the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, but also the socio-economic positions, as well.

Reading Level:
Recommended Age To Read By Yourself:
13 and Up
Recommended Age To Read Together:
12 and Up
Purchase Recommendation:
Borrow. It is worth your time to look at the pictures. They set an excellent historical context for the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.

Title Tommy, the Gun That Changed America
Author Karen Blumenthal
Publisher Roaring Brook Press © 2015
ISBN 1626720843
Material Hard Cover
Genres History - US, Biography, History - 1940s & 1950s, Crime, Jobs, History - 1920s & 1930s
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