Review: Bambino and Mr. Twain by P. I. Maltbie

bambino and mr twain

Bambino and Mr. Twain by P. I. Maltbie, illustrated by Daniel Miyares

In 1904, after losing his beloved wife, Mark Twain shut his door on the public life he had led.  Instead, he stayed indoors spending much of his time alone except for his daughter’s cat, Bambino.  The two of them grew closer as they played billiards together, shared ice cream for his birthday, and stayed together in a bed crowded with books and papers.  One day, after spotting a squirrel outside the window, Bambino leapt out and disappeared.  Twain put an ad in the paper and many people came with cats and kittens just to meet the famous author.  But none of the cats were Bambino.  Three days later, Bambino appeared on the doorstep as if nothing had happened.  Mark Twain took inspiration from his small companion, and started being part of public life again. 

This book explores the powerful relationship between people and animals.  It is also an exploration of grief and could be used with children in elementary school to discuss death and grief.  Maltbie includes many small touches about Twain, including those white suits, details about his wife, and traditions of their family.  Those little points create a much more human story, even though we are talking about one of the most famous authors ever. 

The black cat and the figure of Twain in his trademark white suit make for a great pairing visually as well.  Miyares’ illustrations are filled with great textures and colors, with the palette changing as the mood of Twain lifts.  The shadows are stronger when the grief is at its worst, but lightens and even brightens as the book continues. 

A personal look at a great figure of American literature, this book about Twain offers the depth of grief and the joy of connection with a pet.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Charlesbridge.

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