Review of Tommy: The Gun that Changed America

blumenthal_tommyTommy: The Gun that Changed America
by Karen Blumenthal
Middle School, High School     Roaring Brook     223 pp.
6/15     978-1-62672-084-8     $19.99     g

In this biography of a gun and the times in which it lived, Blumenthal traces the Thompson submachine gun, a.k.a. the Tommy. After the Spanish-American War, an Army officer, John Thompson, believed that America needed a lightweight, automatic, hand-held rifle in order to be prepared for the next conflict. The Army did not share his opinion, so he left the service and developed his own weapon, completed with superior bad timing on Armistice Day in 1918. Without a ready military market Thompson found other avenues for disbursement, and an open market (along with a few robberies) put the Tommy in the hands of the crooks and bootleggers terrorizing the next two decades in American history. At this point Blumenthal turns her attention to these criminals as well as the lawmen trying to stop them. Although short-lived, the Tommy finally realized its creator’s dream, becoming a valuable weapon during World War II, but one replaced at war’s end. In a third thread of her narrative, Blumenthal also examines the history of gun laws in America. With thorough research and impeccable documentation, the author shows the complexity of gun culture, leaving more questions than answers concerning contemporary use and misuse of firearms and the future of Second Amendment battles. Appended with an extensive bibliography and source notes; index not seen.

From the July/August 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Betty Carter
Betty Carter, an independent consultant, is professor emerita of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University.

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