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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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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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*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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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!
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.
While I thought that it was quite a coincidence to find this book after having discussed Twain with my daughter;after I finished reading the book,I deecided to read up on the author Sid Fleischman.Talk about coincidences!!!I found out that he had just passed away on March 17th, at the age of 90,the day before I bought his book.
Twain has to be one of America's most frequently quoted characters.This coincidental passing of of Sid Fleischman reminded me of two quotes of Twain's: "In 1897,James Ross Clemens.a cousin of mine,was seriously ill two or three weeks ago in London,but is well now.The report of my illness,grew out of his illness,the report of my death was an exaggeration." Many versions of this famous quip have been attributed to Mark Twain;this version appears to be the most authorative.
Another time,July 13,1907,in an interview in the New York Times ,he said,"For two years past I have been planning my funeral,but I have changed my mind and have postponed it."
This is a marvellous book and sure to be enjoyed by any Mark Twain fan.
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.