Good Brother, Bad Brother: The Story of Edwin Booth and John Wilkes Booth by James Cross Giblin

Bibliographic Citation: Cross Giblin, James. Good Brother, Bad Brother: The Story of Edwin Booth and John Wilkes Booth. New York: Clarion Books, 2005. 244p. ISBN: 9780618096428.

Awards/Selection Lists:

ALSC Notable Books list

Author’s Website:

No website


Good Brother, Bad Brother examines the lives of John Wilkes Booth, the assassinator of President Abraham Lincoln, and his brother Edwin Booth, an esteemed actor who would suffer the burden of his brother’s mistakes.

Personal Reaction:

Edwin Booth began travelling with his dad, the talented actor Junius Brutus Booth, at the age of thirteen. Essentially, Edwin accompanied his father on his acting tours as his babysitter. His job was to keep his father from alcohol and ensure that he made to his rehearsals and performances. Though Edwin would later develop his father’s taste for alcohol, he also shared his talent for acting. Edwin later became a successful actor with a family of his own. His younger brother, John Wilkes Booth, also dabbled in the acting trade. Charming and handsome, John had a promising future. He was distracted, however, by a dangerous plot to kidnap the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. A strong supporter of the South, John believed that, if re-elected, Lincoln would make himself the “King” of the United States. When his plans to kidnap the President were waylaid, John decided that he would assassinate the man instead. On April 14, 1865, John shot Abraham Lincoln while he watched a play at Ford’s Theater.

James Cross Giblin’s Good Brother, Bad Brother: The Story of Edwin Booth & John Wilkes Booth, examines the lives of John Wilkes Booth and his lesser known brother, Edwin Booth. Though Edwin made a name for himself as an actor, Giblin writes, “for every person who knows that there was once a great actor named Edwin Booth, there are thousands who know that his brother, John Wilkes Booth, assassinated Abraham Lincoln” (Cross Giblin, 2005, p.221). However, Giblin does paint Edwin as the “good” brother or Edwin as the “bad” brother. Rather, the author presents an honest rendering of both that reveals them to be complex, flesh and blood human beings. The flaws as well as the favorable traits of both men are examined, emphasizing the fact that the events of the past have many layers.

Front Matter:

“Also by James Cross Giblin,” dedication page, acknowledgments, TOC

Back Matter:

Bibliography and source notes, Index


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