April Morning

April Morning

by Howard Fast

Paperback(Mass Market Paperback - Reprint)

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“Invites comparison with Crane’s Red Badge of Courage . . . Ithink this is an even better book.”—The New York Times

When you read this novel about April 19, 1775, you will see the British redcoats marching in a solid column through your town. Your hands will be sweating and you will shake a little as you grip your musket because never have you shot with the aim of killing a man. But you will shoot, and shoot again and again while your shoulder aches from your musket’s kick and the tight, disciplined red column bleeds and wavers and breaks and you begin to shout at the top of your lungs because you are there, at the birth of freedom—you're a veteran of the Battle of Lexington, and you’ve helped whip the King’s best soldiers...

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553273229
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/28/1983
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 152,808
Product dimensions: 4.14(w) x 6.88(h) x 0.56(d)
Lexile: 990L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

In addition to the Immigrants novels, Howard Fast is the author of Greenwich, Being Red, My Glorious Brothers, Time and the Riddle, and Spartacus (the basis for the acclaimed film), among many other books. He has won numerous awards for his writing, including an Emmy Award, the National Jewish Book Award, and the Schomburg Award for Race Relations.

Read an Excerpt

April Morning

By Howard Fast


Copyright © 1961 Howard Fast
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4532-3481-5


The Afternoon

When I turned back to the house, my father called after me and asked me did I figure that I was finished. "I figure so," I said, and then my father said, in that way he has of saying something that cuts you down to half of your size or less:

"Slow to start and quick to finish."

He said it plain and quiet, but it was of a piece and it reminded me that I couldn't think of a time when he had said something pleasing or gentle with love or concern; and I replied to him, but not aloud—for which I didn't have the guts at all—"If just once in all my born days you'd say a good thing to me, then maybe I'd show good to you, and be able to do what you want me to do, and maybe read your mind or your soul." But aloud I said nothing, just began to walk toward the house, and his voice coiled after me like a whip around my ankle:


"Yes, sir."

"I'll have you talk to me face to face, not into the air with your back to me."

"Yes, sir," I said, turning around.

"Draw your mother's evening water and bring it to her. Wasted steps are like wasted thoughts, just as empty and just as ignorant."

"Yes, Father," I said, and I went to the house and picked up the yoke and walked with it to the well. The sun was cutting. That's the time of the day when the sun touches the trees for evening time. That's the time of the day when the wind stops, and the air is so sweet you can taste it and suck it.

But that afternoon, the time of the day made me think about death, and I saw a chicken hawk in flight and waited for someone somewhere to send a load of bird shot after it; but no one did. I thought of death and was full of fear, and I just wanted to sit down somewhere and put my face in my hands and give in to the terrible frightened feeling I had; but I didn't. I have all kinds of strange thoughts and feelings of that sort, and I guess I never talked to anyone about them, except perhaps a little to Granny, because I didn't really believe that anyone in the world ever had just the same kind of thoughts.

When I drew the water from the well, I said the spell to take the curse off water, "Holy ghost and holy hell, get thee out of the mossy well." My father once heard me say that spell, and he took me into the barn and gave me seven with the birch rod. He hated spells and said they were worse than an instrument of the devil; they were an instrument of ignorance. And I was foolish enough to answer back that if he was so sure about all kinds of superstition, why did he birch me seven times, not eight or six? That was the way it was in the whole town. When you got the rod taken to you, you got it seven times.

I should have known enough to keep my mouth shut, because he replied that he was gratified to be enlightened and laid onto me ten times more, and then wanted to know whether I deemed seventeen to be a superstitious number?

So now I said the spell quietly, just moving my lips; a spell has no meaning if you only think it to yourself and never voice it. But quiet or not, my brother Levi, who is eleven years old, has cat's eyes. He popped up and demanded a drink from the bucket.

"Draw your own water," I told him.

"Don't be high and mighty. I seen you saying the spell. How would you like for me to tell Father that I seen you saying the spell?"

"You're a little bastard," I told him.

"Sure, and what did you just call your mother?"

"All right. Take your drink and leave me be. Why don't you stay out of my sight. I'd be happy to God if only you'd stay out of my sight."

I took a drink too. The water is always best, cold and crackling, when you first draw it.

When I came into the house, Mother was frying donkers, and the kitchen was full of the smell. You save a week's meat leftovers to make donkers, and then it's chopped together with bread and apples and raisins and savory spices, and fried and served up with boiled pudding. I don't know of anything better. When my mother saw me come in with the yoke, she took the water off and smiled her gratitude.

"You're a good boy, Adam," she said.

I didn't tell her that it wasn't my idea. I needed for someone to think something good about me, and I didn't want to disturb her thinking. When I ate some of the raw meatstuff, she slapped my hand. When I sat down, she said:

"Are you going to stay here and fill my head with your nonsense?"

"What nonsense? I haven't said a word."

"That's just it, Adam. You sit there with that look in your eyes, and just as plain as daylight I can see what kind of silly dream you're contemplating. When I was your age, if a boy had an hour between the chores and mealtime, he spent it with profit reading the Holy Writ. Granny told me how your father—just about your age it was—set himself a disciplined period to memorize three verses of Lamentations every evening."


"And he did."

"Well, good heavens, what on earth did he want to memorize the verses of Lamentations every evening for?"

"To profit himself. And let me tell you this, Adam," she said. "I don't hold with the narrow views of some, but it seems to me that an expression like good heavens is precious close to swearing. It seems to me that the King's English is abundant enough to express every necessary shade of feeling and impatience without resorting to words that have sincere meaning when used properly. Have you been fighting with your brother again?"

"Now what gave you that idea?" I didn't wait for her to tell me, but got up and began to stalk out the way I had come. She had to know where I was going.

"Just to find Granny."

"She's upstairs."

I went upstairs, and Granny was in her room making thread. When I entered, she blinked at me and said, "I see less and less. Old age is pity enough, but when the eyesight goes, the good Lord is laying a heavy burden on my poor shoulders."

"Well, Granny," I replied, "I don't think your eyesight is going. It's just getting dark in here because the twilight has come down."

"Is that so, Adam?"

"Sure enough."

"Well, then, I've spun sufficiently," she declared. "Sit down, Adam. Do you want some sweets?"

I sat down on her old milking stool, which she had decorated with paint and turned into one of the prettiest things in the house, and reminded her that there was a widely held opinion to the effect that sweets before mealtime spoil an appetite.

"Oh?" she said. "I'm sure we'd all be rich if I could devise something to spoil your appetite, Adam." Then she went to the cupboard and got out the cotton kerchief that she always wrapped the maple sugar in, and she broke off a piece for each of us. I ate it slowly and appreciatively, and asked her whether it was true about my father and Lamentations.

"It's true."

"Well, what for? I mean, what was his purpose?"

"To profit himself."

"That's what Mother said, but I'll be damned if I can see the profit in it."

"You will be damned, Adam, if you go on with such talk." I shrugged. "And don't act as if you don't care."

"I think we keep saying things that we don't really mean at all, Granny."

"Do we? And what sort of things, Adam?"

"Like being damned. Do you believe in God, Granny?"

"What a question!" She snorted with great indignation. "In all my born days, Adam Cooper, I have never seen a boy like yourself for asking questions!"

"Well, do you?"

"Of course I do."

"Well, I don't know—"

"Adam Cooper, you are not going to start in again with all that silly nonsense of yours, are you?"

"Just one thing—just answer me one thing, Granny, that's all I'm asking. I just want you to answer me one thing. Why is it that they're always taking it out on me for whatever I say, like there's nothing in the world I can do right and everything I do is all wrong?"

"My goodness, the things you say, Adam!"

"Well, look at it this way, Granny. You believe in God, don't you?"

"Enough of that."

"If you believe in God, then God gave a person brains, didn't he?"

"Of course."

"But just as soon as you begin to use the brains God gave you, you're being sinful."

"That's just the sort of foolish thing you say, Adam, that's so provoking."

"Well, just take Isaiah Peterkin, for example."

"Oh, no," she said, her eyes narrowing, "I am not going to be trapped into that Isaiah Peterkin thing. It just happens that I was gathering blueberries the other day, and there you were down in the gully with Ruth Simmons, instructing her about Isaiah Peterkin, and I overheard enough—"

"Did you see us, Granny?"

"I didn't have to see you. As if I wouldn't know that Cooper voice of yours anywhere!"

I sighed with relief, and told her that even if I had gone into it a little with Ruth Simmons, that didn't make it any less a fact.

"It just seems to me, Adam," Granny said, "that shaking a body loose from her faith is about the most sinful thing you could do."

"Granny, I wasn't shaking anybody loose from anybody's faith. I'd like you to tell me how old Isaiah can be as mean and wicked and two-faced as he is, and be a deacon in the church and be looked up to as a real fine God-fearing man. I mean, he can get away with anything, just so long as he says the right words about religion."

"It's not for you to judge Isaiah Peterkin."

"I wasn't judging him," I protested. "Everyone knows how rich and mean he is. So how could I be judging him? Anyway, in Boston when we were there a fortnight past, there was a man talking right on the Common, and he said that the highest good was to doubt. Just like that, in those very words."

"I never heard such nonsense. If he said that, he was nobody worth quoting."

"He was a Committeeman, Granny."

"I don't believe a word of it"

"Cross my heart, Granny."

"Don't you dare cross your heart to me," she snapped, "just like you was Roman or some other heathen sect, and don't think that because I'm old and rheumatic and grateful for foolish company that you can say anything you please in front of me. You can't cozen me with a pretense at stupidity, not in one thousand years. You're a spiteful boy, and that's why your father loses patience with you."

"He doesn't lose patience, Granny. He doesn't have any patience to begin with."


"And this was a Committeeman," I said.

"So. Well, just tell me this—was he a Sam Adams Committeeman?"

I admitted that he was most likely a Sam Adams Committeeman, and she shrugged her shoulders and said there wasn't anything else a body could expect, seeing that Sam Adams was an atheist and so were all of his cronies. Granny had a good mind, and I guess that was one of the reasons why I enjoyed provoking her. The other reason was that she would stand for being provoked, and practically no one else would. "Now if he had said, Adam," she went on, "that one of the paths to good was a certain amount of doubt and common sense, there might be some reason to his thoughts. Then he would have been sensible. But doubt is a negative thing and good is a positive thing, and anyone who says that both are the same thing is simply a fool, and there you are."

"That's it exactly, Granny. When you disagree with someone, you straight out and call them a fool. But when I disagree, I get my ears pinned back."

"I'm older than you, Adam, by a year or two."

"You said yourself that age doesn't teach most folks a blessed thing."

"Don't tell me what I said. If you propose to remain as narrow and opinionated as you are now all the years of your life—well, that's your choice. Most folks are one thing. I should hope that my grandson would be something else."

At that moment, Mother called from below that supper was ready, and I gave Granny my arm and helped her down the stairs. Her rheumatism was getting worse and worse. As we went down the staircase, myself a little in front of her because the staircase was so narrow, she said to me:

"Don't ever talk most to me, Adam. Most folks are not Coopers, and most folks do not live in this village or in this county either. Most folks are not dissenters, and most folks would just as soon find a chain to put around their necks, considering one wasn't there already. Coopers have been teachers and pastors and free yeomen farmers and ship captains and merchants for a hundred and fifty years on this soil, and I don't recall one of them who couldn't write a sermon and deliver it too, if the need ever arose."

"Well, maybe you're leaning on the first one, Granny," I said.

On weekdays, we ate our meals in the kitchen. On the Sabbath, we ate dinner in the dining room, and Mother set the table with china and silver. We weren't rich, but Granny's mother had been rich enough for china and silver. On weekdays, we ate with plainware.

Although there were only five of us in the immediate family, our table was always set with places for six, Mother at one end, Father at the other, Granny facing the two boys. The empty chair was next to Granny. My father claimed that the empty chair was, as he put it, a manifesto of hospitality, an invitation to anyone who crossed our threshold at mealtime; and I must admit that many a guest sat there, knowing that the welcome was ready at the Coopers', the food good and the cooking beyond compare. But my father's real purpose was an audience, and if possible an argument. There wasn't anyone in his own family whom he considered really worth arguing with, and as far as plain discourse was concerned, although we were a disciplined and trained audience, he could never be wholly sure that we were listening, and if listening, comprehending.

My own opinion was that Granny could win hands down in any argument, but she would not argue with her son in front of his own children. She also felt that one of her sex tended to be unladylike and pushy when she ventured on the finer points of the divine, ordinary, and inherent rights of man—which was mainly the subject.

Tonight, however, we had no guest at the beginning of the meal, and the five of us sat down and four of us bent our heads while Father said grace. He didn't hold with bending his head, at grace or any other time, and when Granny once raised this point with him, he replied that one of the many differences between ourselves and Papists and High Church people—who were a shade worse than Papists—was that whereas the latter two sects cringed and groveled before the clay and plaster images they worshiped, we stood face to face with our God, as befitting what He had created in His own image. Granny said that there was possibly some difference between cringing and groveling and a polite bending of the head from the neck, but Father wasn't moved. The difference was quantitative not qualitative, and therefore only a matter of degree. To him it was a principle. In two minutes, my father could lead any argument or discussion around to being a principle.

So he said grace glaring across the table at the imaginary point where he placed God, and I always felt that God had the worst of it. My father couldn't just begin a meal with something direct and ordinary, like "Thank Thee, O Lord, for Thy daily bread and the fruit of the harvest." Oh, no—no, he had to embellish it. If there was no guest at the meal, God was always present, and tonight my father said sternly:

"We thank thee, O Lord, for the bread we eat, but we are also conscious of seed we have planted, of the hands that guided the plow and the back bent in toil. The ground is dry as dust, and I will take the liberty of asking for a little rain. I know that Thou givest with one hand and Thou takest away with the other, but sometimes it seems to me to go beyond the bounds of reason. Amen!"

Then he turned to his soup. Granny lifted her head and stared at him, and finally said, "Moses?"

"Yes, Mother?"

She sighed, and we all began to eat.

"Yes, Mother?"

"Nothing," Granny said. "Nothing at all."

"Whatever is on your mind, Mother, I would appreciate your coming out with it and saying it."

"Eat your soup, Moses," she sighed.

He was inordinately fond of soup, and during the soup he left conversation to the women and children. I did not have much to say to Levi, being occupied with my own thoughts, some of them about Ruth Simmons and also some thoughts about going to sea. If you had respectable kin in Boston, it was generally understood that one of the younger sons would go to sea and learn the trade, since there was no better way to end up with a fine house and a wife in silks and laces, and good, imported furniture as well as some standing in the community. I was not a younger son, but one day in Boston, Captain Ishmael Jamison, my uncle on my mother's side, had felt my muscles, asked me a number of questions, and finished by wondering how I would like to sign on with him as bottom junior on a voyage to the Indies. I was remembering this, contemplating it, and speculating on whether there weren't more interesting girls in the world than Ruth Simmons, whom I had seen at least every day of my life. I also kept in back of my mind a picture of my father's rage if I came out with so much as a hint about going to sea.


Excerpted from April Morning by Howard Fast. Copyright © 1961 Howard Fast. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


The Afternoon,
The Evening,
The Night,
The Morning,
The Forenoon,
The Midday,
The Afternoon,
The Evening,

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April Morning 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 64 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was assigned my summer reading and i wasn't so happy about it because i am not a history person. I didn't like the book at first. But then it started to get interesting. In the end I did turning out liking this book. Anyone who likes history would love this book but just keep reading on even if it does get boring.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story of the American Revolution is in many history books and is well known to any student. This is a first person account of a small New England town and how one of the first battles affects the towns people and their families. A great read that is over before you know it. Howard Fast does a great job making an often told tale come to life in the eyes of an 18th century teen.
huntersdog More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed the book, but I could see how it would appeal to males more than females and in particular young men. Fighting a battle in your own neighborhood as a teenage boy is a very real experience that young men can easily imagine themselves and relate very well to the main character. The author does do a good job of bringing in the female perspective of grief and their sacrifices as well. Very fast read, 3 days max.
Jedi More than 1 year ago
This book is now one of my favorite books. It takes place on April 18-19, 1775 in Lexington, Massachussets during the American Revolution. The town of Lexington is a quiet, peaceful, religious town full of Puritans. Adam and his argumentative father have never really been close or gotten along. One night, when his younger brother, Levi, hears hoofbeats, Adam will have to step up to become a man. During the fight against the Redcoats, Adam realizes the reality of war and is not like romantic versions he has heard of it. During just 24 hours, Adam has come from a young boy, to the man of the house. This book has some subtle humor to it and I would recommend it to anyone.
fearless-dreamer More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book for a school literature project; I had no idea the book was going to be like this. It started off slow at first, but then the story got fast paced and exciting! If you have to choose a book to read, I definitely recommend you read this book! It is awesome! If you are up for excitement, thrilling stories, and a little romance, April Morning is definitely the book for you! It is a very touching story. I also recommend that whoever has a little anger towards their parents or anything, that they need to read this book! It shows a lot about 'you never know what you got till its gone."
curioussquared on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a terrible book. We had to read it for a summer reading assignment before seventh grade. I usually like the books they assign, but this one was just terrible. Maybe I would have appreciated it more if I was older, but I didn't like it then and I refuse to touch it now so I guess I'll never find out.
YAbookfest on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This realistic, historic novel dramatizes the day in April when the shot heard round the world rang out, starting the American Revolution. On April 18, 1777, Adam Cooper is having his own problems with his overbearing father. The book builds slowly, introducing the reader to a colonial teen, his family, friends and neighbors. When a midnight rider comes to warn the town that the Redcoats are coming, the tensions mount as the men try to decide what course to take when they are so outnumbered. When the battle breaks out, the reader gets a close up view of the action from Adam's experiences.Widely used in middle school English and Social Studies classes, this book would interest anyone over 12 who finds American History exciting.
Glenajo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The setting is April 19, 1775 and the main character is a young boy, stretched under the demanding thumb of his father, one of the town selectmen. When news comes that the British are coming, the boy wants to participate, only to see his father shot. The book follows the boy as he grows up in a single day, working to defeat the British.This is an excellent choice for a history or English class since the protagonist is a teenaged boy, and all the emotions of the day are wrapped throughout the story. The book is a little slow to start, and the vocabulary is higher level, but the story is definitely worth the effort. Teens can feel the frustration of the boy as he strives to be a man, then stumbles into terrorizing territory when the British begin shooting. I would recommend this for school, but for personal reading as well. Fast captured the astonishment and shock of the colonists expertly. Great reading. Received Galley from NetGalley.com
keely_chace on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a pretty good young adult novel about a teenage boy who grows up almost overnight when pulled into militia service and battle at the outset of the American Revolutionary War.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was not a fan at all of this writing style. It was very boring and I found myself having to strain just to get through it.
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HashtagLordOfPureBossness More than 1 year ago
I was required to read this book for my English class. To be truthful, it was good and it was quick and easy to read. It has a great story line and was interesting through.
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This book we are reading it in english. It's incrediblee(:
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3barrupe More than 1 year ago
The book April morning is about a boy named Adam was in the second line of defenses when the British opened fire. After watching his Dad and many other men get killed, Adam had to become the man of the family. I enjoyed this vivid historical fiction book because I felt like I was in Adams shoes found the book very interest because of all the action scenes and cussing especially in a kid¿s book. I liked the way people grouped together to defend the village. I like the period of time the story took place. I really enjoyed the tactics they used against the British. It showed a part of our history. It showed what it was like to be a young teenager in the 1700s. I enjoyed the way this book felt so real and how vibrant the picture they painted in your head is. The way they showed how Adams family lived. How they the described the battles. And how well the author described the story. Adams father died when the small town tried to defend themselves against the British. He then joined a bigger militia to help protect the surrounding towns. After defending the towns, he had to become the man of the family to replace his Dad.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If I had to choose my top five all-time favorite books, 'April Morning' would definitely be on my list. It is a stunning account of a fifteen-year-old boy's experience in the battle of Lexington. It is one of the best historical fiction books written about the time period. The book emphasizes the patriot's cause for independence and the minutemen's determination that eventually won the Revolutionary War. I would highly reccommend this book to everyone!
Guest More than 1 year ago
April Morning¿ s book review . Adam was in the second line of defenses when the British opened fire. After watching his Dad and many other men get killed, Adam had to become the man of the family. I really enjoyed this historical fiction book because I felt like part of the story. I found the book very entertaining because of all the action scenes. I also liked how the Grandmother always defended him when his father argued with him at the dinner table. I liked the way people grouped together to defend the village. I like the period of time the story took place. I really enjoyed the tactics they used against the British. It showed a part of our history. It showed what it was like to be a young teenager in the 1700s. I enjoyed the way this book felt so real. The way they showed how Adam¿s family lived. how they The described the battles. How well the author described the story. Adam¿s father died when the small town tried to defend themselves against the British. He then joined a bigger militia to help protect the surrounding towns. After defending the towns, he had to become the man of the family to replace his Dad.
Guest More than 1 year ago