The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West

by Sid Fleischman

Hardcover, 2008



Local notes

921 TWA





Greenwillow Books (2008), 224 pages


Here, in high style, is the story of a wisecracking adventurer who came of age in the untamed West. A rebel who surprised himself by becoming the most famous American of his time.


Original language


Physical description

224 p.; 7 inches

Media reviews

Fleischman’s illustrated biography skips along hitting the high points of Twain’s life — especially his celebrated career as a Mississippi riverboat pilot, which ended with the Civil War — while fleshing out less well-known episodes, often in the writer’s own words.

User reviews

LibraryThing member jennyo
This is another review copy I requested from HarperCollins Children's Publishing. It's a short, elementary-school level biography of Mark Twain. Twain is one of my favorite characters (and yes, I'm using character on purpose. . . . Twain never let the truth get in the way of a good story), and I'm
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looking forward to sharing this book with my kids. In addition to a little actual historical content, it's peppered with some of Twain's most famous sayings, all guaranteed to bring a smile to the reader's face.

I think my favorite part of the book was its first line:

Mark Twain was born fully grown, with a cheap cigar clamped between his teeth.

I also loved this quote from Twain himself about taking a job as a bookseller's clerk:

. . .but the customers bothered me so much I could not read with any comfort, and so the propieter gave me a furlough and forgot to put a limit on it.

And I'd never really thought about the fact that Twain was probably the original stand-up comic. But he was such a brilliant storyteller, it makes perfect sense.

The Trouble Begins at 8 is a great way to introduce children to Twain's humor and get them interested in reading his work.
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LibraryThing member librariankristin
Newbery winnter Sid Fleischman has penned a well illustrated highly readable biography of Mark Twain.
LibraryThing member francescadefreitas
Written in an engaging tale-teller's voice, this biography of Mark Twain concentrates on the entertaining events in Twain's life - so there's never a dull moment. While it is far from comprehensive, it is a good example of a light biography, and is a good introduction to the author. As an extra
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treat, the short story 'The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County' is included.
I'm not sure who I'd recommend this to, possibly kids who enjoy tall tales, as they'll enjoy the style of this.
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LibraryThing member AwXomeMan
This was a well written overview of Samuel Langhorne Clemens' life. It's funny and entertaining, and doesn't feel much like a typical biography at all.

What I liked most about this book was that it was so funny. It felt like the perfect type of biography to have written for someone like Mark
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If I were doing a lesson over Mark Twain I would definitely include this book. Not only that, but this is a good introduction to more traditional biographies for students to look into.
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LibraryThing member debnance
Who better to tell the story of that wonderful storyteller, Mark Twain, than that wonderful storyteller, Sid Fleischman? Fleischman starts at the beginning and relates all the tales about the man, Mark Twain, true and apocryphal. It was the aphorisms that was so wonderful: “Man---a creature made
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at the end of a week’s work when God was tired” and “Man is the only animal who blushes---or needs to” and “Everybody complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it” and “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated” and, my favorite, “When I was a boy of fourteen my father was so ignorant, I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”If only motion pictures had been invented to capture this man! He was such a presence, full of wit and fun. I wish I’d been alive to see him in person.
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LibraryThing member MeganMcBrown
I think this book is fabulous. Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, led just as colorful and fun life as the characters he wrote about. The author and book are fabulous. The author is humorous and uses fun and interesting words to capture your attention and keep things moving along. I think people will
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really enjoy reading about Twain and how many similarities he has to characters like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. The book is very well written. I would like to read this one more thoroughly and possibly even add it to my own collection.

I think this book is probably a better read for middle school children rather than 4 th and 5 th graders who might not understand the subtle humor in the writing. Plus, I don't think kids start reading Twain's work until middle school, and they probably won't care too much about him until then.
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LibraryThing member odonnell
The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West is a very entertaining book. However, though at first glance, the double-spaced type and plentiful pictures make it seem like it could be a good fit for a wide variety of students, it probably is not. This biography is great fun
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for an adult, teenager, or the occasional worldly or Mark Twain-loving elementary school student. There are many dry witticisms and historical references that most children would just not "get". Nevertheless, Sid Fleishman is an amusing and skilled writer and has so much to offer the reader. He begins the book by stating "Mark Twain was born fully grown, with a cheap cigar clamped between his teeth." According to Fleishman, this "birth" took place in San Francisco right after Twain finished writing The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. The former Samuel Clemens had left Missouri (where the Civil War was starting), Nevada, where he was working as a reporter, and the gold fields of California. The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County (which is included in its entirety at the end of the book) made him a well-known writer. This well-researched book is full of the background stories of many of Twain's famous sayings such as "The report of my death is greatly exaggerated".
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LibraryThing member nicholspdx
Much like Twain's work this biography is a difficult read. And much like Twain's work it is a delight for the reader that can find the rhythm. Once the reader can engage in this particular style of writing they will find a story worth reading and one that will probably get them to read Twain's work
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if they haven't already.
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LibraryThing member KarenBall
Have you met Mark Twain? If you haven't, or if you met some stodgy old coot, you should pick up this biography and meet the hilariously funny alter ego of Samuel Clemens! The title of Sid Fleischman's newest book comes from the original publicity posters created by Mark Twain for his first lecture:
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"Doors open at 7, the trouble to begin at 8." Samuel Clemens was one for adventure of all kinds, from piloting riverboats on the Mississippi, writing as a journalist, humorist and novelist, prospecting, and spending an entire two weeks as a soldier during the Civil War. One of his best friends referred to him as "the hardest-working lazy man I ever knew!" Fleischman doesn't spend a lot of time on the most famous works, like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn; instead, he spends his time showing us the events that became the fodder for many of those stories and novels. This is a well-written, amusing biography that includes cartoons, photos, and illustrations which add to the delightfulness of the title -- and Mark Twain is someone that every student should meet. 6th grade and up.
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LibraryThing member shelf-employed
Let me start by noting two things: 1. I loved this book 2. I think it would be best classified as a teen book. Here's why:

The Trouble Begins at 8 (a reference to how Twain billed his speaking engagements), is a highly entertaining and informative look at one of America's best known authors -
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although he is arguably equally famous for his biting wit. The book chronicles "the adventurous years that turned the unknown Samuel Clemens into the world-famous Mark Twain."

With chapters titled "The Man Who Made Frogs Famous,"and "Eggs, Three Cents a Dozen," through "Golden Gate, So Long," Fleischman's book follows Twain's mixed attempts at finding his fortune, his travels in the wild west, and his growing career as a writer. Peppered with many period photographs and art reproductions, as well as excellently sourced quotations, the reader is fully immersed in the whirlwind of personality that was Mark Twain. Mark Twain was at times a liar, a printer, a schemer, a riverboat pilot, a lecturer, an author, a lazy drifter, even a dueler! In his own words, "I have been an author for twenty years, and an ass for fifty-five."

The Trouble Begins at 8, ends with an Afterstory, A Mark Twain Sampler (an excerpt from the story that made him famous, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County"), a Mark Twain Timeline, References, Illustration and Photograph Sources, Bibliography, Novels and Other Works, and Index. It is an exhaustive look at a finite period in this American icon's storied life.

Some of the reasons that I loved the book are the reasons that I find it unsuitable for a Juvenile Biography classification. It's focus on a short period of Twain's life makes it unlikely to be acceptable for a school biography assignment. Additionally, Fleischman's success in offering the unique "flavor" of times gone by, makes the prose difficult reading for all but the oldest of the juvenile audience,

"In addition to the paper's social denseness, Clemens felt in the wrong harness at the fact-
obsessed Call. His nimble imagination went unappreciated. he was heavily blue penciled for
writing sentences his editor regarded as salty caviar to the paper's meat-and-potato readers. "

Fleischman's use of period quotes is also very entertaining,

"Concerning the difference between man and the jackass: Some observers hold that there isn't any. But that wrongs the jackass,"

but perhaps above the level of the average juvenile nonfiction reader.

In short, I loved this book, but I think it will be better received by teens and adults.
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LibraryThing member mjspear
A re-telling of Mark Twain's life from childhood to the publication of his first writings (and subsequent fame) this is YA biography at its best: engaging writing (Fleishman is definitely channeling Twain), well-paced, well-referenced (does this librarian's heart good :-) and spiced with Twain's
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own words of wit & wisdom. In addition to all of this, we have wonderful archival photographs and drawings. Anyone, at any age, who wants to understand better the man who wrote the greatest American novel of all time, should read this.
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LibraryThing member CelenaM511
While many students read Mark Twain's work, they may know nothing about his life. I think students will appreciate the cartoons and drawings, hopefully making it more appealing.
LibraryThing member MrsRJ
A thorough, detailed, beautifully written book about one of the most beloved authors of all time, Samuel Clemens, but we know him as the master-writer of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer... Mark Twain. Sid Fleischman has once again taken a topic that causes most kids to run screaming in the opposite
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direction - and made it interesting, intriguing and most importantly - Fun! You will thoroughly enjoy the wisecrack for which the book is named..."The Trouble Begins At 8."

The life of Mark Twain has been written about by some of the brightest minds, however, knowing these texts are written with a dialogue that will never reach children, Fleischman targets the young minds with his books. Not an easy task and yet he has been able to deliver the absolute perfect mix of educational information and entertainment to keep youngsters turning pages and parents happily observing. Sid Fleischman writes with an elegant, well-informed simplicity that immerses the reader, breathing life into the pages of the book, so much so that at the conclusion it feels more like you have spent time with these people as opposed to having read a book about them. Every character, as well as, each stage of Clemen's journey contributes depth and richness to the story and has been beautifully captured in this unique, highly entertaining biographical book that reveals the creation of Mark Twain. From his early days in Missouri, through his quite interesting personal adventures; as a steamboat pilot, mining for gold, dancing the 'kangaroo' in San Francisco, just to name a few.

While you may think you know all there is to know about Mark Twain you have never had the pleasure of reading anything quite like this. Complimenting the narrative are numerous black and white photographs that truly bring the legend to life. Often referred to as a 'gentlemen of leisure,' Mark Twain's life was above all, interesting. Sid Fleischman has captured the essence of this free-spirited writer that today is one of only a handful of authors counted as true masters of the pen. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in literature, regardless of age. Sid Fleischman is a talented writer and his ability to continually breath new life into old stories is unparalleled. This is an exceptionally well written and highly enjoyable read - Don't Miss it!

In today's high-tech, highly competitive market, I commend Harper Collins for delivering such unique, educational, fun titles
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½ (61 ratings; 3.9)
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