Mark Twain for Kids: His life and Times
R. Kent Rasmussen
Ages 9 and up
Chicago Review Press, 2002, 1-55652-397-1
Though decades have passed since Samuel Clemens died, he is still one of America’s most well-known and admired public figures. During his lifetime he was not only known for his marvelous books and articles, but he was also a very popular public speaker who gave hundreds of lectures to delight audiences all over the world. From Australia to India, and from England to Canada, Sam traveled giving lectures, meeting people, gathering material for his own books, and writing.
It is hard to believe that this icon of the writing world never completed his school education and that he came from a slave owning family from a small Missouri town on the Mississippi River. As his family was far from well off Sam had to start working at a young age. His first jobs were working as an apprentice printer for local newspapers. He left home at the age of seventeen to get other printing jobs elsewhere, still unsure of what he wanted to do with his life. Then he settled on the idea of becoming a steamboat pilot and he went back to the Mississippi River. Sam discovered that the work was a lot harder than it looked but once he had completed his training he found that he loved the job and he might have continued being a pilot had not the Civil War intervened. Not wanting to get involved in the conflict, Sam went west.
Sam dabbled in all kinds of work for some time, traveling from place to place, until he finally got work as a “cub” reporter for a newspaper in California. Though the work did not pay that much it was easier to do than trying to dig gold out of the ground and quite by chance Sam fell into a niche which he would occupy for the rest of his life.
With every article that he wrote Sam reached more and more people and then he took a new step, he began to write books. At first he used his old articles to create collections of travel stories, but then he moved on to creating works of fiction. One of these, “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is considered by some to be one of the greatest American novels of all time.
Young readers who have enjoyed reading “The Prince and the Pauper” or “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” will be delighted to discover that Samuel Clemens had a life just as colorful, if not more so, than some of his most well known characters. He had adventures that most of us only dream about and he gave thousands of people enormous pleasure through his lectures, speeches, articles, and books. Perhaps his most lasting legacy was that he showed the world that one did not have to write in the style of the past, and that humor and the personal touch can have a great impact on a listener or reader.
With informative boxes, lots of illustrations and photographs, and twenty-one activities to try, this book will leave the reader with a real sense of what it was like to live in Samuel Clemens’ time. They will come to appreciate that Samuel Clemens was a truly unique and inspired person who had a zest for life and who like to share that zest with others.
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