The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West
I loved Trouble Begins at 8. Loved it. Which is to say that I more than appreciated what it had to offer. More than saw it as a good nonfiction title. I mean really and truly loved, loved, loved it. Something I usually only reserve for fiction. Sid Fleischman is awesome. His writing is just amazing. His gift with words, his literary style, was just brilliant on this one. Listen to the first sentence of chapter one: "Mark Twain was born fully grown, with a cheap cigar clamped between his teeth." Open it up to almost any chapter, and you'll find that Fleischman has a way with words, with communicating simple facts in a unique and thoroughly charming way:
"Sam landed a dream job. He was fourteen years old, as Mark Twain was later to calculate. Scholars question his arithmetic. They add a couple of years. Apprenticed to a printer who published one of the two Hannibal newspapers, the Courier, he had the privilege of sweeping up, of running and fetching, and even of learning to set newspaper type--all without being burdened with a salary. Not a cent." (25)
In addition to the great biographical narrative, the book is liberal in its use of graphics--photographs, illustrations, etc. It also has all the bells and whistles it needs: Mark Twain's short story of the celebrated frog, a time line, references (end notes), bibliography, index, etc.