Theo, The Big Brother

Book: Theo, The Big Brother
Author: Ida Treadwell Thurston
Illustrator: Lucille Good
Publisher: Joyce Nolt, republished in 2002
Related website: available at
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 8-12
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Disclosure: Any books donated for review purposes are in turn donated to a library. No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.
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Thurston, Ida Treadwell. Theo, The Big Brother (originally published as The Big Brother of Sabin Street in 1909 by Fleming H. Revell Co.; republished in 2002 by Joyce Nolt, 1593 Lancaster Rd., Manheim, PA 17545). This is a sequel to The Bishop’s Shadow and continues the story of Theodore Bryan who in the earlier book was a homeless, thieving waif living on the streets of Boston, MA, but was influenced by his association with “the Bishop” (Phillips Brooks, author of “O Little Town of Bethlehem”) to make something worthwhile of his life. As The Big Brother opens, several years have passed, and Theodore is now graduating from Harvard. Most of the characters from The Bishop’s Shadow return. Theo’s older sister-like friend Nan Hoyt has married his former mentor Allan Scott and now has two children. Her “Little Brother” Bennie lives with them. Theo’s old associates Jack “Carrots” Finney and Dick Hunt help to run Bryan’s activity room. And some new friends are added, such as Teddy Marston, Theo’s college mate, Ted’s cousin Marjorie Armstrong, Theo’s neighbor Mrs. Knowles, and the boys of Sabin Street.

Theodore Bryan wants to become a preacher like “the Bishop” whom he admired so much and has studied hard in college to make his dream come true. He is to give the valedictory speech at graduation. However, he suddenly comes down with a serious throat illness and is told that as a result he will never be able to do any public speaking. Devastated, he ceases to believe in God, turns his back on all his old friends, and takes a job with the business of Teddy Marston’s father in New York City, NY. What kind of influence will Theo’s decision have on “Little Brother” Bennie, who has just started college at Harvard, and all the other boys whom he has helped? Will Bryan ever return to faith in God? And what will happen to him when he is hit on the head with a brick thrown at him by an enemy?

Author Ida Treadwell Thurston lived from 1848 to 1918. This book, first published in 1909 as The Big Brother of Sabin Street: Continuing the Story of Theodore Bryan “The Bishop’s Shadow” with original illustrations by Frank Lloyd Rose, is an exciting story which includes fighting a fire and dealing with an unruly mob, but it also has some great lessons for young people. Various characters illustrate the importance of repentance, forgiveness, helping the less fortunate, and trying to be a good example for others. It generally encourages us to show our care and concern for those around us in any way that we can. And there is the underlying message that if God closes one door, He always opens another so that we should simply trust Him and seek to do His will in all things. We did this as a family read aloud, and everyone enjoyed it.

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