Tuesday, February 15, 2011
The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Suzy)
Kerley, Barbara. 2010. THE EXTRAORDINARY MARK TWAIN (ACCORDING TO SUSY). Ill. by Edwin Fotheringham. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 9780545125086 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-6]
Susy Clemens set out to write a biography about her famous father when she was only thirteen years old. She was concerned that people didn’t know her multi-faceted father and she wanted to “set the record straight.” Kerley describes how Susy observed her father’s antics within the family and wrote about them secretly in a journal. When her parents discovered the book, Twain said he was flattered and impressed that she honestly exposed “one’s deficiencies, but gave them an equal showing with one’s handsomer qualities.” He encouraged Susy and shared with her information about his childhood, his writings, and his feelings about notoriety.
Fotheringham’s full-spread illustrations are lively and bold and expertly blend with Kerley’s text. Nestled within the pages are smaller booklets that contain selections from Susy’s actual journal (misspelled words and all.) These entries provide a unifying effect, authenticating both Susy and her father as brilliant authors. Kerley appends an interesting author’s note, a timeline, and ideas for writing a biography.
Kerley provides a writing lesson for readers at the end of the book that should not be missed. Use this guide to help children develop their own biographies of a person they know well. Encourage them to write daily about the person for an extended time period and then compile the writings into an illustrated book.
Other Twain biographies for young readers:
Anderson, William. RIVER BOY: THE STORY OF MARK TWAIN. ISBN 9780060284008
Fleischman, Sid. THE TROUBLE BEGINS AT 8: A LIFE OF MARK TWAIN IN THE WILD, WILD WEST. ISBN 9780061344312
Lasky, Kathryn. A BRILLIANT STREAK: THE MAKING OF MARK TWAIN. ISBN 9780152521103
By Rebecca S. McKee