The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy) by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham
At age 13, Susy, the daughter of Mark Twain, was annoyed that people writing biographies of her father got things wrong. So she decided to write her own biography of her famous father because she truly knew him. At first Susy’s biography was a secret but soon her parents had discovered her book and her father helped by offering quotes at opportune moments. In her biography, Susy told of her father’s childhood, his public side and his private life. She documented his finer qualities and also his lesser ones. She also wrote about his writing practice and how her mother cleaned up the racier passages. This is a biography that shows us Twain as a family man and father as well as an author.
Kerley’s biography of Twain is immensely readable and inviting. She has incorporated passages from Susy’s biography in an inventive way. They are placed in inserts that look like small books on each page. Readers will be delighted by the passages and the insights they offer. Fotheringham’s illustrations are a creative mix of vintage and modern. Done digitally, they have a warmth and strong graphic quality.
Highly recommended, this is a great biographical picture book for elementary-aged students. It is also ideal to share with children who want to be writers since it shows not only Twain’s process but gives readers a young writer to model themselves after as well. Appropriate for ages 8-12.
Reviewed from library copy.
You can read about Barbara Kerley’s own writing process for this book at INK.