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THE EXTRAORDINARY MARK TWAIN by Barbara Kerley Kirkus Star


(According to Susy)

by Barbara Kerley and illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-545-12508-6
Publisher: Scholastic

From 1885 to ’86, Mark Twain’s 13-year-old daughter Susy Clemens wrote a 130-page biography of her father out of indignation: Her dear Papa was no mere humorist! This large-format picture book from the creators of What to Do About Alice? (2008) contains numerous excerpts from Susy’s sprightly biography/journal, presented throughout as mini-spreads, spelling errors intact. (Twain described his daughter’s spelling as “frequently desperate.”) Kerley’s conversational, quotation-rich narration effectively complements Susy’s insights, and the result is an affectionate portrait of Twain as writer and family man. Twain aficionados will be especially captivated by its fullness, as he’s not revealed as the author of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn until mid-book. Fotheringham’s dynamically composed, digitally created full-bleed illustrations, both inventive and appealing, effectively recall the 19th-century setting, and big, swirling lines reflect the flourishes of an ink pen. A favorite spread shows the grand Connecticut house as a cross-section, with Twain going about his routine in every room, even taking a bath! A heartwarming tribute to both the writing life in general and the well-loved humorist—oops, sorry Susy… “Pholosopher!” (author’s note, how to write a biography, time line, sources) (Picture book/biography. 8-11)