The Extraordinary Mark Twain (according to Susy)
By Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham
Published 2010 by Scholastic Press
This is a unique picture book biography of Samuel Clemens, also known as Mark Twain, told by his thirteen-year-old daughter, Susy. What is most interesting about this is that’s it’s based on actual fact – Susy, during her thirteenth year, did, in fact, write a biography of her father. She wanted people to know him as she knew him, not just as the Mark Twain that the public saw. And Samuel Clemens was so pleased with Susy’s account of him that he included pieces of it in his own autobiography. This is an incredibly fascinating bit of history to me and I think Kerley does an excellent job of teaching readers about it. I really enjoyed the fact that Susy’s personality was apparent throughout the story. Additionally, Kerley provides tips for writing biographies at the end of the book, which I think kids would love to try after reading this story. For me, the major downfall of this book is the illustrations – I just don’t really like the style of them. But overall, this is a fantastic read and an excellent choice of a Bluebonnet.
Imogene’s Last Stand
By Candace Fleming, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
Published 2009 by Schwartz & Wade Books
Another 2012 Bluebonnet title, this is the story of Imogene, a girl who loves history so much that her first words were “…” Now that she’s a bit older, she has taken over her town’s Historical Society and attempted to return it to glory. But soon, she gets word that the building will be torn down to make room for a shoelace factory. This is a totally unacceptable turn of events to Imogene and she, as the title implies, makes her last stand. This is a really fun and important book about the relevance of history and our duty to preserve it. This book is interesting because it shows how sometimes progress can lead to bad things, a stance not normally taken in popular society. I really enjoyed the use of historical quotes throughout the story – they really made Imogene’s love of history shine through. In my opinion, the illustrations could be better but overall this is a very charming story that I very much enjoyed.
Louisa: The Life of Louisa May Alcott
By Yona Zeldis McDonough, illustrated by Bethanne Andersen
Published 2009 by Henry Holt and Co.Yet another Bluebonnet title I recently read, this is one I didn’t enjoy quite so much. It’s pretty much just a straight biography of Louisa May Alcott, which is totally fine – not every biography needs to focus on some tiny and unusual facet of a person’s life to be interesting. However, I found this to be rather boring. This is a terrible disappointment because Louisa actually had a rather interesting life. Additionally, I find the illustrations in this one to be rather odd and I don’t particularly care for them. Some facts about Louisa’s family are included at the end, as well as some of her early writings, her life in her own words (briefly) and, surprisingly, a recipe for her favorite dessert. I just wish this had been more interesting.