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The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According To Susy) Hardcover – January 1, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 3–6—Kerley and Fotheringham again craft a masterfully perceptive and largely visual biography, this time about the iconic 19th-century American writer. In pursuit of truth, Susy Clemens, age 13, vows to set the record straight about her beloved (and misunderstood) father and becomes his secret biographer. Kerley uses Susy's manuscript and snippets of wisdom and mirth from Twain's copious oeuvre as fodder for her story. The child's journal entries, reproduced in flowing handwritten, smaller folio inserts, add a dynamic and lovely pacing to the narrative, which includes little-known facts about Twain's work. The text flawlessly segues into Susy's carefully recorded, sometimes misspelled, details of his character, intimate life, and work routine during his most prolific years. Digitally enhanced illustrations, colored with a Victorian palette and including dynamic, inventive perspectives, tell volumes about the subject by way of Fotheringham's technique of drawing lines that represent Twain's impatience, mirth, smoking habit, love for family and cats, storytelling, pool-playing, and truth-pondering. The opening and closing illustrations of Susy's writing process are depicted visually—scribbles emerging from pushing her oversize pen, and her metaphorically teasing out her Papa's mustache, pen in tow. Kerley dedicates an appended, one-page guide to writing biographies to Susy, a biographer who "applied no sandpaper" to her subject. Line-by-line sources of quotes, a time line, and an author's note on both Papa and Susy are appended. A delightful primer on researching and writing biographies, and a joy to peruse.—Sara Paulson-Yarovoy, American Sign Language and English Lower School PS 347, New York City
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From Booklist

Two texts run though this unusual book. The first is Kerley’s account of Samuel Clemens’ 13-year-old daughter, Susy, who decides to write her father’s biography in her journal. The second is a series of excerpts from that actual biography, neatly printed in scriptlike font with Susy’s misspellings intact. These entries appear on smaller, folded pages, each marked “JOURNAL,” that are tipped into the gutters of this large-format picture book’s double-page spreads. Though a story about someone writing a book sounds a bit static—and it sometimes is—Kerley manages to bring Susy and her famous father to life using plenty of household anecdotes. With a restrained palette and a fine sense of line, Fotheringham’s stylized, digital illustrations are wonderfully freewheeling, sometimes comical, and as eccentric as Susy’s subject. Appended are author’s notes on Samuel and Susy Clemens, tips on writing a biography, a time line, and source notes for quotes. An original. Grades 2-5. --Carolyn Phelan

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 7 - 10 years
  • Grade Level: 2 - 5
  • Lexile Measure: 1090L (What's this?)
  • Series: AWARDS: Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List 2011-2012
  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press (January 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0545125081
  • ISBN-13: 978-0545125086
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 9 x 12.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #651,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Everybody talked about her Papa and thought they knew everything there was to know about him, but they really didn't. Yes, he was a "world-famous author, quoted here, there, and everywhere," but no one knew Mark Twain like Susy did. It just plain old "annoyed" her and she was going to set the record straight and would just have to write a biography of her Papa. After all, she knew more about him than anyone. And so, thirteen-year-old Susy began to secretly write about him. She described his handsome features saying, "All his features are perfect exept that he hasn't extrodinary teeth." Susy would have to capture his personality on the page and did so perfectly (even though her spelling left a bit to be desired).

He had some very good qualities and some "not-so-fine qualities" like his absentmindedness and his temper. Why even once Mama found him in a library reading one of his own books. Heck, he loved it, but didn't realize it was one of his own. Of course among the "bad" things Susy claimed was that "He smokes a great deal almost incessantly . . . Papa uses very strong language." Susy wrote all about her Papa, the person she knew better than anyone else. At night her words would be tucked under her pillow, but Papa and Mama discovered them. She really did know a lot about him because he really was a real man, a special one and HER Papa!

This is a fascinating, charming, "new" look at Mark Twain from the eyes of his young daughter, Susy. The pages of her biography about Susy's Papa are inset in between the pages so the reader can open up and read them, misspellings and all. I loved the little "you've got it all wrong" insinuation this young girl leaves with the world. She captures a side of this author that many would believe, but not know about it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Cindy Lovell on May 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is flawless. I have given it as gifts to many people and have read it many times myself. As a professor in teacher education, I share it with other teachers. What's so perfect about this book? EVERYTHING. In no particular order: 1) It's a biography of America's greatest author. Part history, part literature, part culture; 2) It includes excerpts from the book Susy Clemens wrote about her "Papa" when she was just 13 years old; 3) These excerpts are in the form of smaller, "diary" pages literally inserted between the pages written by Barbara Kerley; 4) the illustrations are stunning; 5) Kerley did not "correct" Susy's inventive spelling, but left her passages intact; 6) Teachers can use this to teach biography, autobiography, expository, and creative writing - while having fun. Students could use this book as a model for writing their own biography about a beloved family member; 7) It's a perfect children's book, but anyone of any age will enjoy it. There is much more to love about this book, and older readers will probably want to go on to read Papa: An Intimate Biography of Mark Twain, the book from which the journal snippets are extracted. Those inspired to learn more of the Clemens family will want to hear Mark Twain: Words & Music, which tells Twain's life story in spoken word and song. (Garrison Keillor narrates, Clint Eastwood voices Sam Clemens, and my own daughter, Angela, voices Susy Clemens.) The tragedy, of course, is that Susy died at age 24 from meningitis just as her father, mother, and sister Clara were finishing a yearlong round-the-world lecture tour to pay off debt. Susy (and youngest daughter, Jean) had stayed at home. Susy's death was the family's greatest tragedy. This book offers a compelling peek at the happy years.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. Heiss on August 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Wow!

This is a fun and interesting biography, with inset pages from Twain's daughter's journal. The little pages are just bound into the book... it is remarkable.

Non-standard spelling and a LOT of humor -- this is a fun one to read out loud with your family, because there is so much humor inside.

Hilarious illustrations will knock your socks off.

This is truly a great book. It would make a fine gift (or donation for a teacher's classroom library.)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By D. Campbell VINE VOICE on May 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Written from the point of view of Mark Twain's daughter, Susie, this book offers a fresh, and fun, perspective on the man. Along with the book, entries from Susie's diary are interspersed within the pages.

This excerpt had me laugh out loud when discussing the downside of fame that existed even in those days:

"He was a famous author, living in the most impressive house in Hartford, Connecticut. Friends, neighbors, and total strangers were eager to spend time with him. Papa tried to let George, the butler, know when he wasn't interested in visitors. But sometimes Papa had to suffer when, as he put it, some 'mentally dead people brought their corpses with them for long visit.' And then there were the stacks of 'irksome' letters to answer. Far too much of Papa's time was used up by being famous."

There's also Susie's observations when her Father was writing Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Mamma's job to "clean up any questionable passages".

I enjoyed it and it would be a fun resource for any child/student to read if they were learning about Mark Twain or were reading one of his many books.
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