A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this biography of one of America's most famous authors, Mark Twain, is told in the voice of one of his most famous characters, Huck Finn. Folksy language, imperfect grammar, and creative spellings are all part of that voice. This unusual style makes the book fun to read aloud but may prove confusing to younger readers who tackle this book on their own. This may be a better fit for mid-grade readers who may have heard of the author and his character. This book presents basic information about Mark Twain, his most famous
books and characters -- and a few remarkable facts, such as the fact
Halley's Comet passed overhead the year Twain was born and 75 years
later, in the year he died. An editor's note in the back presents a timeline of further biographical details of Twain's life.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
After introducing himself, Huck Finn tells readers about the life of author Mark Twain, starting with his birth. As Huck says, this book is not intended to be "some windy bioografy" -- and it isn't -- though readers will learn the basic facts of this famous author, including Twain's real name and the books he wrote. Readers will also learn about his childhood, adventures, and the financial challenges he faced. A few pages in the front explain the book's format, and a timeline at the end provides dates for biographical details. The story is illustrated with New Yorker-style caricatures with backdrops painted in pastel brown, blue, and green watercolors.
Is it any good?
By hearing Twain's story told through the voice of his most famous character,
kids can learn about the lauded author -- and Huckleberry Finn -- in a way that's
both fun and dramatic. The clever wordplay may confuse younger readers, making this a better read-aloud book for them. Though it's a picture book, it's a better fit for mid-grade readers who may have heard of both of these characters and can make sense of the misspellings and folksy expressions. They're sure to find the clever format and humorous illustrations engaging and appreciate the timeline that puts biographical details in context.
Though it only provides basic biographical information, this book makes the worlds of Huck Finn and Mark Twain seem very inviting. Kids will likely want to read more about both of them.
Watercolors in pastel browns, blues, and greens create the backdrop for cartoon-like pen and ink sketches that look a bit like caricatures from the New Yorker magazine. While the illustrations may lack boldness of color found in most children's books, they are cleverly detailed and expressive. Also, print size is varied to show parts of paragraphs that should be read with greater emphasis.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the author used folksy language, creative spelling, and a mix of print styles to tell this story. What does that say about Huck Finn? How does that give you a sense of where this story took place, and what kind of person Mark Twain was?
What did you think about the way the author decided to have Huck Finn tell about Mark Twain's life? How do you think that added to the story? Or did it? Can you think of any other biographies that have been told this way?
The illustrations in this book look like caricatures. How are caricatures different from other drawings? Besides showing what a character may have looked like, what else do they tell you? Do they add more to the story than real photographs might?
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