Sonoma County Library


The Big Read Sonoma 2010

Books for Young Readers By, About, or Inspired by Mark Twain

Adaptations of Tom Sawyer for Younger ReadersThe Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain

ER NICHOLS The Adventures of Tom Sawyer series adapted by Catherine Nichols and illustrated by Amy Bates 
1. A Song for Aunt Polly
2. The Best Fence Painter
3. The Birthday Boy
4. The Spelling Bee

Biographies for Young Readers

J B TWAIN River Boy: The Story of Mark Twain by William Anderson. Illustrated by Dan Andreasen. Preschool-Grade 2.  The simplified facts of Mark Twain’s life are gently told in this picture book for young children.
J B TWAIN American Boy: The Adventures of Mark Twain written and illustrated by Don Brown. Grades 2-6.  Brown’s picturebook biography gives greatest emphasis to Mark Twain’s childhood. The events of his adult life occupy the last few pages.
J B TWAIN The Mark Twain You Never Knew by James Lincoln Collier. Grades 4-8.  An interesting and photographic exploration of the life of a famous American author, written by a Newbery-Honor author.
J B TWAIN The Trouble Begins at Eight: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West by Sid Fleischman. Grades 5 and up.   Lively prose, the best of it belonging to Mark Twain himself, and generous illustration make an endearing portrait of Mark Twain’s life with emphasis on his time in the West. 224 pages.
J B TWAIN A Brilliant Streak: The Making of Mark Twain by Kathryn Lasky, illustrated by Barry Moser. 41 pages. Grades 4-6.  Each period of Mark Twain’s life begins with a quote from his work. The biography focuses on the facts of Mark Twain’s life of most appeal to older elementary school students. For example, Twain’s childhood encounters with violence and corpses (two of murdered men) are included.
J B TWAIN Mark Twain for Kids: his life and times, 21 activities by R. Kent Rasmussen.    146 pages. Grades 4-6.  This biography provides 21 activities that kids can do to learn about the diverse man known as Mark Twain.
B TWAIN Mark Twain: The Man and His Adventures by Richard B. Lyttle is a meaty biography that spans Mark Twain’s life. 219 pages. Grades 6-12.
J 928 KRULL “Killingly Funny Mark Twain” in Lives of the Writers: Comedies, Tragedies (and What the Neighbors Thought) written by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt. Pages 57-61. Grades 4-6.   The collected biographies by Krull and Hewitt specialize in less-known facts about their subjects, especially if they could be embarrassing. This short biography of Mark Twain gives a glimpse of his playful nature, as well as his difficulties. It reports that he once had to conduct interviews with the survivors of a sea disaster from a stretcher because he was too saddle sore to walk.
J 808.8 JUST “Keeping Christmas with Mark Twain” in Just Before Christmas: Children’s Stories to Read Aloud edited by Natasha Simkhovitch.  Pages 31-32. Christmas at home is described in three short memoirs. The first is by a Katy Leary who worked for the Samuel Clemens family for 29 years, the second by a daughter, Clara Clemens. The final piece is by Mark Twain written on Christmas Day, 1909, the day after his daughter Jean died.

Meeting Mark Twain in Fiction


Alice Rose & Sam: A Novel by Kathryn Lasky. Grades 5-8. 252 pages.   Virginia City, Nevada was a dangerous place when a young newspaper man named Samuel Clemens moved to town. This is the setting for a novel about a 12-year-old girl Alice Rose Tucker who witnesses a murder and finds an ally in the newspaper reporter who will become better known as Mark Twain.


The Mark Twain Murders by Laurence Yep. Grades 5-8. 152 pages. Twain’s time as a reporter in San Francisco during the Civil War is the setting for this mystery involving confederates and gold.

Life on the Mississippi

J B TWAIN Mark Twain and the Queens of the Mississippi by Cheryl Harness. Grades 2-6.  The era of the steam-powered paddle boats on the Mississippi is the subject of this lovely picture book. The painting on the cover shows three people standing on green bank overlooking the river traffic, two boys who could be Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn and a man in the white suit who is certainly Mark Twain.
J 808.8 FROM “Steamboats on the Mississippi: Sounding Calls” in From Sea to Shining Sea: A Treasury of American Folklore and Folk Songs compiled by Amy L. Cohn. Pages 122-123.  Did you know Samuel Clemens chose his pen name “Mark Twain” from sounding calls used to navigate rivers?
J 977.7 VIEIRA The Mighty Mississippi: the Life and Times of America’s Greatest River by Linda Vieira.  Grades 2-4.  32 pages.  A chronological history of the Mississippi, along with images of a trip downriver from Lake Itasca to the Gulf.

Adapted with permission from the Orem Public Library.