The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy)

Scholastic Press (pub. 1.1.2010)
48 pages

* This post is part of the children's Nonfiction Monday
hosted today by Wild About Nature *  

               and Illustrator:  EDWIN FOTHERINGHAM

C haracters: Mark Twain, an American author
                      Susy Twain, his 13 year old daughter

O verview from the jacket flap:

    According to Susy, people were just plain wrong about her papa. They thought they knew Mark Twain - after all, he was a world-famous author. Thousands of people had read his books and attended his lectures. Some of them even considered themselves Mark Twain experts. But they didn't really know him.
     And so, in secret, thirteen-year-old Susy wrote her own biography of Mark Twain - because she was determined to set the record straight!
     Through seamless prose, sly pictures, and generous excerpts from Susy's actual diary (cleverly designed inside separate mini-book inserts), readers are treated to a frank, adoring, and uproarious portrait of an American icon - the extraordinary Mark Twain (according to Susy)."

T antalizing taste: 
     "As a writer herself, Susy paid close attention to
Papa's work routine ... If he had a sudden
stroke of inspiration,  neither cold nor dark
nor three-in-the-morning kept him from hurrying 
up to his office to scribble it down. 
     Papa called it "sailing right on."

[from Susy's diary]  "The other day we were all sitting when papa told Clara and I that he would give us an arithmetic example ... 'If A byes a horse for $200 and B byes a mule for $140 and they join in copartnership and trade their chreatures for a piece of land $480 how long will it take a ... man to borrow a silk umbrella.'"
and something more:   I was intrigued by the reference to Mark Twain's involvement with copyright laws in the picture book biography of The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy).  Apparently,  his books were often pirated in Canada, and then sold in the U.S. at a lower price.  He often visited Canada to try to protect his works.  In 1886 and 1906, he spoke at U.S. congressional hearings which led to the significant Copyright Act of 1909.  At the last hearing, he even dressed in an all-white suit to bring attention to himself and the issue of international copyright protection. 
      The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum site has wonderful biographical tidbits, such as the following: "Samuel L. Clemens, the future Mark Twain, was born when Halley's Comet was in the skies. He died during the comet's return 74 years later."  It seems only fitting that such a strong personality would come and go with the brilliance of a comet.
     And his literary name of Mark Twain was tied to his riverboating experience:  "On the river, the depth of the water was vitally important. A mark was the same as a fathom on the sea or six feet. Twain means two. If the man checking the depth called out "Mark Twain", it meant a depth of twelve feet, safe for riverboats of the day."  Essentially his name meant all is safe; if only that could have applied to Susy who died of meningitis as a young woman.  Who knows what else Mark Twain's daughter might have written?  But we're so lucky that Barbara Kerley so beautifully wove Susy's wonderful biography-journal (displayed in the inviting small booklet inserts) into the text of this picture book.


Barbara Kerley said...

Hi Jeanne --

Thanks so much for blogging about the book and sharing so many extra historical details about Twain -- what a fascinating man!

Barbara Kerley

Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

Thanks Barbara for your note, AND particularly thanks for writing such a wonderful book!