Mark Twain was certainly an unusual man that kids will love learning about in the book The Trouble Begins at 8. The real trouble will be getting kids to pick up this book. It’s wonderfully well written, highly amusing, and accurate, but I doubt if kids will want to read about Mark Twain, since few have read his books. The book is aimed for 9-14 year olds, and I am highly curious to know the nine year old who has read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or The Gilded Age. Even though I have already read some of his writing, in my school system, Mark Twain is not read until junior year. Despite this, I think young readers will delight in the escapades of Mark Twain and the undeniable humor that Sid Fleischman has as well.

Mark Twain was born in the fall of 1865 in a San Francisco hotel room. The only person present was the rough riverman, newspaperman, and gold hunter Samuel Langhorne Clemens. He had writen his first story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” had hoped that the next would come easily. How was Mark Twain born? Who was Samuel Clemens? Sid Fleishman attempts to separate truth from deeply woven lies that Twain told in his autobiography.

Learn about Sam’s days in Missouri and his many get-rich-quick themes, few of which worked. Admire the handsome steamboat pilot who adventures into the west with his brother Orion.

I had so much fun reading this book! I knew Twain had a difficult life, but not to this extent. I loved the quotes peppered throughout such as “Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” Also, the book portrays Twain as a real man with his own plentiful flaws, and through difficulties he was able to become a great writer.

The has pictures of Twain and places he visited randomly in the book. I had a great time reading this with them, so that I could picture his handwriting or what he looked like. I wish they had included a painting of Twain with red hair- I can’t seem to find one anywhere.

I love the picture on the cover! It really represents so much of the book. Twain loved to entertain, and he was supposedly very good at it.

I only have one problem with the book. After reading the last chapter, I felt very sad. Twain had a very hard life. His wife and three of his children died at the end, and I felt that the end just needed a little twisting. Something about his legacy, or never really knowing exactly what his life was like.

I’ve never read any books by Fleischman before. He is known for being funny, and this book certainly is.

Comes out July 2008.

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