Tuesday, 26 July 2011

BOOK REVIEWS ~ "Mark Twain at Work!" By: Howard Goldsmith

If you've ever read "Tom Sawyer" you will recall the incident where the mischievous lad encourages other folk to whitewash a fence, thus getting out of the work, himself.  But you may be surprised to learn this situation actually took place in the life of the author, Mark Twain.

"Mark Twain at Work!" is a "Level 2" book in the "Ready-to-Read" series.  It is one of several books that focus on the "Childhood of Famous Americans."

The reader soon learns that "Mark Twain was born in a small Missouri town in 1835" and that "his real name was Samuel Clemens" (Pages 3 and 4).

It seems he had a happy childhood, playing with his cousins, exploring the woods, climbing trees, picking berries and swimming in the brook. The text indicates Clemens was always busy "hopping about like a jumping bean" (Page 7).

Once he took a garter snake to school.  "The snake wriggled its way across the room.  It stopped at the feet of their teacher, Mr. Cross.  Mr. Cross glared across the room at Sam.  'Sam-u-el Lang-horne Clem-ens!' he called.  'Take that snake outside!  At once!' " (Pages 11-13).

Athough the boy obeyed, the next day the teacher told the lad's Mother what had happened.  "Sam's Mother punished him by making him paint the tall, wide fence around their yard.  'That's an awful lot of work!' Sam complained, staring at the fence.  It looked a mile high.  'Blame yourself!' his Mother answered." (Pages 15 and 16).

Sam tried to get his friend, Sandy, to help him paint the fence, but he was on an errand to fetch water from a well.  Then along came another friend, Will Bowen.  Clemens told Will painting was fun. "'Nothing is work if you enjoy doing it,' Sam said.  'Can I brush awhile?' Will asked. 'What will you give me to brush?' Sam said.  'Give you?'  Will asked, puzzled.  'Of course,' Sam said.  'Nothing for nothing.' "  (Pages 22 and 23).  So Will traded an apple for a chance to paint the fence!

Later, John Briggs came along.  He gave Sam a tadpole for an opportunity to swing the paint brush.  When he got tired, a friend name Frank had the next chance to brush the fence. "By late afternoon all the boys in town had painted the fence.  Sam was not tired at all!  Plus he now had two tadpoles, ten marbles, a box of worms, five pieces of orange peel and other things" (Pages 26 and 27).

" 'Someday,' Sam promised himself, ' I am going to write all this down.'  He would turn it into a funny story.  He loved making people laugh.  As he grew older he learned to weave webs of magic words that cast a spell.  Years later Sam wrote books under the name Mark Twain.  The story of the fence grew into one of Mark Twain's most famous books "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer."  Mark Twain became one of America's favorite humorists.  After The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain wrote The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  He said most of those adventures were true.  They all happened when he was a boy" (Pages 28 to 31).



1835 - Born in Florida, Missouri, as Samuel Langhorne Clemens
1839 - Clemens moves to Hannibal, Missouri
1843 - Twain attends William Cross's one-room schoolhouse.  Young Twain writes:

'Cross by name and cross by nature --
Cross jumped over an Irish potato."

1848 - Apprentices at the Missouri Courier
1852 - Twain's first published sketch appears in the Boston Carpet Bag
1857 - Begins work as an apprentice pilot on the Mississippi River
1861 - Moves to Nevada with his brother Orion and tries mining
1862 - Takes a job as a reporter, for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise
1865 - Wins fame with his comic take "Jim Smiley and his Jumping Frog" (later published as 'The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.')
1866 - Gives his first lecture on his experiences, beginning a career as a humorous lecturer
1870 - Marries Olivia Langdon
1871 - They settle in Hartford, Connecticut
1876 - The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a great success
1882 - Publishes The Prince and the Pauper
1884 - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is published in London; comes out the following year in America
1889 - Publishes A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
1904 - Wife Olivia dies at age sixty
1910 - Dies at age seventy-five in Redding, Connecticut.   


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