Saturday, June 25, 2016

Tom Sawyer

It's June and Time to Jump into a Classic
I jumped on board for the 2016 Jump Into A Book ReadKidsClassics Challenge with
March "Little Prince"
April "Wind in the Willows"

May "James and the Giant Peach"

Valerie Budayr, children's book author, publisher, co-founder of Multicultural Children's Book Day and creator of jumpintoabook site originated this idea.
My June pick "Tom Sawyer" more than hits the mark for reading a children's classic. 
Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He was born on November 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri, Samuel L. Clemens went on to author several novels, including two major classics of American literature: “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”. He was also a riverboat pilot, journalist, lecturer, entrepreneur and inventor. Twain died on April 21, 1910, in Reading, Connecticut. 
Writing grand tales about Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and the mighty Mississippi River, Mark Twain explored the American soul with wit, buoyancy, and a sharp eye for truth. “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” is the first of Mark Twain's novels to feature one of the best-loved characters in American fiction. Tom Sawyer, an orphan, lived with Aunt Polly and his siblings on the banks of the Mississippi River more than 100 years ago - during a time when slavery still existed and people thought you could cure warts by playing with dead cats. 
In this story the children seem to have a lot of freedom and it's interesting to see how they occupy themselves in the 1800's. For instance, Joe, Huck and Tom seem to have “The Merry Adventures  of Robin Hood” memorized. They run around the forest acting it out, each boy taking turns playing various parts. They also pretend to be pirates, hermits, explorers making lots of discoveries. There's also a fascination with animals (both alive and dead), sores and cuts, insects, knives and half-broken baubles on which great importance is placed. And Tom is always trying to show off for the cutest girl in school, Becky Thatcher. 

Twain humor and wit shines when he writes the famous episodes of Tom having to whitewash the fence and when he and Huck showed up at their own funeral. Drama prevailed when Tom and Huck discover a murder and the culprit's escape cause much tension and fear in the boys and when Becky and Tom are lost in the caves.

“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” epitomizes life in the Mississippi River towns in which Twain spent his own youth But beneath the innocence of childhood lie the inequities of adult reality—its emotions, superstitions, murder and revenge, starvation and slavery.

Tom Sawyer isn't really a bad kid although he's always painted and remembered as a little troublemaker. But the truth is he has a strong conscience and a strong moral compass. He honorably steps up and takes a whipping at school to save Becky’s face, in another instance stands up and tells the truth in a situation in which he literally could be murdered for doing so, etc. Sure he basks in the fame and glory, and even some feminine gratitude he receives after these acts, but that's okay because most people wouldn't be brave enough to perform these acts in the first place.

In terms of reading, the book it's really not an easy read because of the many colloquial terms that Mark Twain used. I found myself shuffling between the text and the appendix to find out words and phrases being used that really were part of America during the 19th century. It did slow down my reading but at the end, it was all worth it. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a great read that has a bit of everything - treasure hunts, murder and romance. Each chapter is a unique adventure that fits into a larger story about the importance of friendship, loyalty, family and the idea of freedom.

It is interesting to note that the book I was reading had an editorial note forewarning the reader that the old fashioned style of punctuation and spelling and typeset were retained in order to convey to the flavor of the original work. And the publisher noted that portions of this work contained racial references and language that were part of the time period and environment written about that some modern readers might take offense. I would hope a parent or teacher would guide a child through the reading. It is definitely a middle school read and/or a YA novel. I see on the horizon another summer read
Check out this link for some fun facts about Mark Twain.

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