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Twain's Tom Sawyer

June 15, 2014 - Jodelle Greiner
Everybody’s heard of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, two of the most unforgettable characters in American literature. Their stories were told in “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

But did you know that Mark Twain wrote other stories about the irrepressible twosome?

“Tom Sawyer Abroad” is the story of how Tom, Huck and Jim the slave wind up on a hot air balloon and ride it all the way across the Atlantic Ocean. Twain’s fantastical tale has the trio zipping over to Africa and crossing the Sahara Desert, with Huck narrating and Tom saving their skins countless times with his get-out-of-anything teenage street smarts.

I’m sure in Twain’s time — the mid- to late-1800s — crossing the Atlantic in anything but a boat would have seemed like science fiction and required a leap of imagination on his part to write. In fact, it wasn’t until 1978 that a team of three pilots, Ben Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson and Larry Newman, accomplished the feat in 137 hours in the Double Eagle II balloon, according to online.

But that’s what I like about “Tom Sawyer Abroad” — it’s a fun, wild ride where you get to suspend your disbelief and have a great time. Don’t worry about the mechanics of the flight; instead, glory in Tom’s inventiveness, his exasperation with Huck and Jim for not being able to see the vision, and Twain’s unique style of writing (not to mention spelling), along with his ability to shine a light on topics of the day while wrapping his satire in a high adventure story.

If “Tom Sawyer Abroad” is sheer run-away fun, then “Tom Sawyer Detective” will appeal to amateur sleuths of all ages. Tom and Huck get an invite to stay with Tom’s Uncle Silas and Aunt Sally, but there’s trouble in “Arkansaw,” as Huck calls it in his narration. Before it’s all done, Tom and Huck will meet a stranger who isn’t a stranger, find a dead body, see a ghost, and Tom will puzzle out the murder mystery to save an innocent man.

Twain makes good use of backwoods superstitions, which Tom and Huck know by the fistful, as well as local dialect to add color to the tale of greed, thievery and courtroom theatrics. Once again, disbelief will need to be suspended as a teenage Tom acts as co-counsel in a trial, but it’s a rip-roaring good story, especially when Tom unmasks the culprits and saves a couple of priceless diamonds, to boot.

There’s a reason Mark Twain is recognized as one of the greatest American authors of all time. These are stories you can’t get anywhere else, told in a way no one else can mimic, making the characters live forever.


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