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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

The Trouble Begins

Gearing up for our discussion

I looked forward to my second reading of The Trouble Begins at 8. I could read over and over Fleischman’s wonderful turns of phrase, such as this one:


 “From under the author’s full mustache, hanging like a rusted scimitar over his sharp quips, came an evergreen stream of wit.” p.4


I appreciate how he develops Clemens progression into Twain, how he couches what was from what might have been (“with…a possible snort” p.2), how he documents thoroughly all of his quotes and credits his illustration sources.


On second reading, however, I have a few misgivings about its “quality of presentation for a young audience” as a nonfiction book.   Funny captions to the illustrations expand further on Twain’s life and habits…but also suggest that the characters in the illustration are Twain, such as in the Norman Rockwell painting on page 9 (Caption: “Mark Twain confessed to generously sharing his doses of medicine, when no one was looking, with the family cats.” Illustration shows a mother feeding a child medicine, and a cat looking on.). Also, his tone and tongue-in-cheek perspective—which are distinguished successes in narrative voice and engagement—necessarily lack context.  Is this the best “biographical” presentation for a child audience?  I’m not sure.


This book still stands out and stays with me. I’m curious to know what others think.

Nina Lindsay About Nina Lindsay

Nina Lindsay is the Children's Services Coordinator at the Oakland Public Library, CA. She chaired the 2008 Newbery Committee, and served on the 2004 and 1998 committees. You can reach her at

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