"Mark Twain was born fully grown, with a cheap cigar clamped between his teeth." So begins Sid Fleischman's ramble-scramble biography of the great American author and wit, who started life in a Missouri village as a barefoot boy named Samuel Clemens. Abandoning a career as a young steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River, Sam took a bumpy stagecoach to the Far West. In the gold and silver fields, he expected to get rich quick. Instead, he got poor fast, digging in the wrong places. His stint as a sagebrush newspaperman led to a duel with pistols. Had he not survived, the world would never have heard of Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn--or red-headed Mark Twain. Samuel Clemens adopted his pen name in a hotel room in San Francisco and promptly made a jumping frog (and himself) famous. His celebrated novels followed at a leisurely pace; his quips at jet speed. "Don't let schooling interfere with your education," he wrote. Here, in high style, is the story of a wisecracking adventurer who came of age in the untamed West; an ink-stained rebel who surprised himself by becoming the most famous American of his time. Bountifully illustrated.
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 Twain.
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.
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.
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.
I'm not sure who I'd recommend this to, possibly kids who enjoy tall tales, as they'll enjoy the style of this.
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
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 - 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.