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River Boy: The Story of Mark Twain


Ste-e-e-eamboat's a-comin'!"

Along the banks of the great Mississippi River, a young boy named Samuel Clemens raced to the docks whenever he heard that familiar cry. He dreamed of exploring the world beyond his river town. Little did he know that one day he would become the famous writer Mark Twain, and write about his boyhood adventures along the bustling river waterfront in the classic stories The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The ...

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Ste-e-e-eamboat's a-comin'!"

Along the banks of the great Mississippi River, a young boy named Samuel Clemens raced to the docks whenever he heard that familiar cry. He dreamed of exploring the world beyond his river town. Little did he know that one day he would become the famous writer Mark Twain, and write about his boyhood adventures along the bustling river waterfront in the classic stories The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

Sam's exploits take him from the printing presses of the Hannibal Courier to the decks of the steamboats that travel the mighty Mississippi, and even to the Wild West.

Now noted historian William Anderson tells the colorful story of Sam's life as he grows from a mischievous boy into the enterprising author. Dan Andreasen's fresh, vibrant paintings capture the spirit of the storyteller who will live on forever as one of America's literary icons.

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Editorial Reviews

“Andreasen’s burnished paintings capture the gold of imagination and memory.”
Publishers Weekly
Anderson and Andreasen (previously paired for Pioneer Girl) spotlight Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, in this attractive but ultimately disappointing picture book. The author describes Sam's boyhood, spent along the banks of the Mississippi River, through his stints as a printer and steamboat pilot, gold miner and newspaper reporter to his successful career as a novelist and lecturer. However, he presumes a prior acquaintance with Twain's work. For example, he reports that young Sam was punished once by being made to whitewash a fence but tricked his friends into doing the work; yet Anderson never spells out the connection with Tom Sawyer. The prose slips occasionally into clich ("The hiss of the steam and the call of the whistle on the Mississippi River tugged at Sam's heart"). Twain's witticisms are quoted only once or twice, and his voice stays muted. Andreasen's paintings help transcend the shortcomings of the text. He conjures a Rockwellian era of barefoot boys in straw hats and suspenders, and evokes the romance of the Mississippi in evocative endpapers that show a steamboat chugging up an inky blue river. Ages 7-10. (Mar.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Although Mark Twain left Hannibal, Missouri, when he was seventeen years old, his childhood experiences always remained an important part of who he was and greatly influenced his success as an author and a speaker. This picture book biography includes the important events of Twain's life from birth to death. Connections between his life in Hannibal and his writings are made throughout. References are made to the people in his life who became characters in his books. His love of adventure and his sense of humor shine through. Realistic, full-page, portrait-style illustrations contribute to the understanding of the boy Samuel Clemens was and the man he became. A timeline of important dates is included in the back. 2003, HarperCollins,
— Phyllis Kennemer
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-This engaging, anecdotal biography will acquaint readers with some of Clemens's own boyish exploits, which eventually became memorable moments in the lives of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Clemens is portrayed as an adventuresome, fun-loving person who, from an early age, became an expert at exploring new venues, and who became a great writer and humorist despite the fact that his formal education ended at age 12. The people in Andreasen's illustrations have the same round-cheeked, homespun look as those found in Norman Rockwell's paintings. The pictures have a softness that suggests an earlier time, and many of them have an appealing luminescent quality. A chronology on the endpapers lists key events in Clemens's life. For a younger audience than Kathryn Lasky's equally well-written A Brilliant Streak: The Making of Mark Twain (Harcourt, 1998), River Boy has only one flaw: the lack of source notes or bibliography to substantiate the anecdotal information. Otherwise, it is a perfect introductory biography that will appeal to both children and teachers.-Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Anderson, best known for his studies of Laura Ingalls Wilder, introduces another American original with this anecdotal profile. Though the author covers Clemens's entire life, from curly-haired youth watching Mississippi steamboats dock to white-suited, cigar-smoking pundit, he focuses most closely on Clemens's childhood-particularly on incidents that later appeared in his novels, such as the famous whitewashing caper-and on his spectacular public career as writer, yarn-spinner, and celebrity. Capped by an atmospheric final scene of Halley's Comet glowing in the sky over a twilight river, Andreasen's (Love Song for a Baby, 2002, etc.) polished, golden-toned historical tableaus give Clemens's life an idyllic air it certainly lacked in its later stages, but the warmth they add will effectively draw readers into the great humorist's world. Still, next to Kathryn Lasky's A Brilliant Streak: The Making of Mark Twain, illustrated by Barry Moser (1998), the art and writing both come off as bland fare, competent but ordinary. (chronology) (Picture book/biography. 7-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060284008
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/20/2002
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 1
  • Sales rank: 1,394,582
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD880L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 11.34 (h) x 0.37 (d)

Meet the Author

William Anderson is an award-winning historian and author whose interest in the “Little House” books began in elementary school. Much of his research for this book was conducted on-site at the locales of the Ingalls and Wilder homes. He has been active in the preservation and operation of the Wilder sites in De Smet, South Dakota, and Mansfield, Missouri, and edits the newsletter, Laura Ingalls Wilder Lore.

Among Mr. Anderson’s other writings about the people and places of the “Little House” books are LAURA INGALLS WILDER COUNTRY, A LITTLE HOUSE SAMPLER, PRAIRIE GIRL, and LAURA’S ALBUM.

William Anderson currently lives and teaches in Michigan. You can visit him online at

Dan Andreasen has illustrated many well-loved books for children, including River Boy: The Story of Mark Twain and Pioneer Girl: The Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder, both by William Anderson, as well as many titles in the Little House series. He lives with his family in Medina, Ohio.

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