Monday, January 28, 2013

A missed opportunity

Just a short post here.
Kemble's drawing of Huckleberry Finn, from the original 1884 edition of the book.
My nine-year-old read the Illustrated Classics version of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer for a school book report. He enjoyed it so much that I decided to read aloud to him Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. (I use the word "slave" instead of that infamous other word, which I just can't bring myself to say.) We read one chapter every evening before bed.

It's a nice time for the two of us, and I get to share some history with my son. I sometimes pause to explain Jim's dangerous situation, the Mississippi River, or the steamboats. Halfway through our chapter last night, I stopped yet again to explain the bend in the river, Cairo, and the concept of free and the slave states.

"So, did Mark Twain write this book when there were slaves?" he asked me.
"No. The setting is around the 1830s or 40s, before the Civil War," I said. "And Twain wrote the book many decades after the Civil War."
"Oh," he said. I started reading, and he stopped me again.
"Wait! You mean Mark Twain's not alive?"
"No, sweetheart."
He buried his face into my shoulder and cried, "Oh, no! Oh, no! I wanted to write him a thank you letter and tell him I love his books."
My heart melted a little.
We had to take a minute break so he could compose himself, and then I kept reading.

I think Mark Twain would have been pleased to know that his book, well into the 21st century, is still touching the hearts of kids. Well done, Mr. Twain.

No comments:

Post a Comment