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The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West Hardcover – July 29, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 5–9—This biography covers enough of Samuel Clemens's youth for readers to appreciate how autobiographical Twain's later novels were, but the seven years that the writer spent meandering the Wild West are at the heart of the book. Fleischman chronicles Clemens's various bouts of gold fever and get-rich-quick schemes in the Nevada Territory and the San Francisco area, but shows that it was always his newspaper writing that provided stability. At age 30, Clemens was reborn as Mark Twain when his short story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" was accepted by a magazine and drew popular acclaim. An "Afterstory" provides brief information on Twain's subsequent marriage and the publication of the novels for which he is most famous. Although similar in scope to Kathryn Lasky's A Brilliant Streak: The Making of Mark Twain (Harcourt, 1998), Fleischman's account is more engaging as he slips easily into Twain's drawling cadences. The illustrations and photographs are rich and varied, and the back matter is a work of art in itself: the time line, annotated bibliography, and references will prove useful to report writers, and the inclusion of "The Celebrated Jumping Frog…" is an extra treat.—Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* When Mark Twain first started giving speeches, the poster advertising them read, “Doors open at 7. The trouble begins at 8.” This is the spirit in which Fleischman writes about Twain, talking about him as an author, of course, but also as steamboat pilot, a journalist, a prospector, and a lecturer—in other words, as an adventurer who didn’t mind a little trouble. In keeping with this theme, Fleischman doesn’t dwell on Twain’s best-known books, featuring Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, but spends most of his time on Twain’s earlier years, showing how young Samuel Clemens’ myriad adventures became the building blocks for his stories. With a Twainian lilt to the prose, the book mingles deftly shaped research with snippets from Twain’s writings. One of Fleischman’s goals is to show Twain’s noted wit; today’s kids, however, may not find some of Twain’s writing particularly amusing, its humor disappearing in the mists of time. What will probably delight readers more are Twain’s amazing exploits aboard stagecoaches and steamboats, making and losing fortunes, and trying to find his place in the world. Numerous illustrations—photos, cartoons, and memorabilia—and solid, well-sourced back matter add to the enjoyment, as does a sampler of Twain’s work. Grades 5-8. --Ilene Cooper

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 1050L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Greenwillow Books (July 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061344311
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061344312
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.2 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #234,706 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Since his autobiography, The Abracadabra Kid: A Writer's Life, was published in 1996, Sid Fleischman has been stealing the spotlight with his exuberant brand of nonfiction. Sir Charlie: Chaplin, the Funniest Man in the World is Fleischman's fourth true tale, following the widely acclaimed The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West and the best-selling Escape! The Story of The Great Houdini.
Fleischman's books have been made into films, performed as plays, and translated into nineteen languages. The author was awarded the Newbery Medal for The Whipping Boy.
Sid Fleischman lives in Santa Monica, California.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Connie the Book Reviewer on October 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
While this book is written for teens it doesn't matter because it does an exceptional job of telling the story of Mark Twain's life and the Wild West. Amazon and the critical reviews indicate it is for ages 9-12 but it easily goes higher, through middle school, to paint a picture of this character's life. Plus, Sid Fleischman is nothing shy of a genius when it comes to writing. He's givens readers engaging and thought provoking books. This book is brilliant.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. Guild on March 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
On March 18,I was driving to a bookstore with my daughter and one of the things I was saying to here was that in school we had never learned about one of my favourite writers.In Canada,American literature was not part of the curriculum .The attitude was that English Literature had to come from England;because we were part of the British Empire and real literature consisted of Shakespear,Stevenson,Kipling,Dickens,Scott,Byron,Swift,and such;and that American writers just didn't measure up.It wasn't till I finished my "education" that I began to find and love writers like Twain,Hemingway,Steinbeck,Caldwell,Mitchell,and the many other writers that became my favorites.
Anyway, as we were about to leave the store,my daughter came up to me with Sid Fleischman's book "The Trouble Begins at 8" in her hand."I suppose you've read this",she said.Of course,the caricature of Mark Twain on the cover got my attention ,but neither the book,nor the name of Fleischman, was familiar to me.Having read most of Twain's books,I immediately bought it.
What a surprise I was in for,to say the least. Although it states on the dust jacket ,that it is for ages 9-12,I found it a exellent book for all ages.Fleischman is a wonderful writer,and the approach he takes keeps the reader's interest from beginning to end.The book is really a biography and much more than just an accounting of Twain's life.He tells us many things about Twain that are different and interesting.It is filled with photographs and illustrations that I simply had not seen before.There is a detailed "Mark Twain Time Line" that is very helpful and which ,along with References and a Bibliography that make it an excellent reference resource on the life and works of Twain.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Kelly Duncan on November 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
As a rollicking autobiography of Twain, this book is well done and entertaining. My concern is the audience indicated as 9-12 year olds or grades 5-8 is off the mark. Opening up to random double-page spreads, my 5th grader will encounter words like conjuration, aversion, arraigned, delusion. At first I assumed the tougher vocabulary came from quotes from Twain himself, which would be expected, but Fleishman feels the need to recreate the tone of a Twain contemporary with phrases like, "He had formerly found it diverting on occasion to convert his personal trevail into humorous pieces for newspapers." References to phrenology, visiting "clairvoyants incognito," and "A rara avis speaking the greatest one-liners written for a bird since those of the ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes" are sure to leave most middle-schoolers befuddled.

Fleischman is a delicous writer, but will be an aquired taste for younger readers. Parents and teachers could use The Trouble Begins at 8 successfully as a read-aloud for students who will struggle with the vocabulary but still appreciate the adventurous life of the author. More appropriate for 8-12 graders.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By RJ McGill VINE VOICE on March 2, 2010
Format: Library Binding
A thorough, detailed, beautifully written book about one of the most beloved authors of all time, Samuel Clemens, but we know him as the master-writer of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer... Mark Twain. Sid Fleischman has once again taken a topic that causes most kids to run screaming in the opposite direction - and made it interesting, intriguing and most importantly - Fun! You will thoroughly enjoy the wisecrack for which the book is named..."The Trouble Begins At 8."

From his early days in Missouri, through many of his personal adventures; as a steamboat pilot, mining for gold, dancing the `kangaroo' in San Francisco, just to name a few, He was often referred to as a `gentlemen of leisure,' Mark Twain's life was above all, interesting. Sid Fleischman has captured the essence of this free spirited writer that today is one of only a handful of authors counted as true masters of the pen. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in literature, regardless of age. Sid Fleischman is a talented writer and his ability to continually breath new life into old stories is unparalleled. This is an exceptionally well written and highly enjoyable read - Don't Miss it!

Happy Reading!
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