Somerville, Mass – A few weeks ago, as a part of my research for Lonely Planet USA, I visited the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut–one of the highlights of this round of research.
For starters, there was a special temporary exhibit on Samuel Clemens’ three epic journeys, taken in three different stages of life, with photographs, souvenirs and excerpts from his writing on these formative experiences. (I immediately put these travel memoirs on my To Read list.)
Aside from this small exhibit, there is The House. This Gothic Revival gem is gorgeous to look at and packed with eclectic artistic touches, including many mementos from the family’s travels. Best of all, it’s a storehouse of stories about the home and work life of this American icon. (Apparently, Samuel Clemens wrote from morning to dinner without a break, often producing 2000-3000 words a day. Then he drank whisky and played billiards until the wee hours. So there’s your secret to success, budding authors.)
The twins are too young to appreciate this type of experience (except perhaps, the LEGO Samuel Clemens that stood in the lobby), so they stayed home. But I did pick up the simplified Classic Starts editions of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to read with them.
I wasn’t sure how these books would go over, especially as we just started reading chapter books. Even as we were reading, I was never sure they were paying attention. There are few pictures so there’s no reason for the listeners to sit nearby (or sit at all, for that matter) and act like they are paying attention. But considering the subject matter–grave robbing, murder, spelunking, treasure hunting–what’s not to love? We read one or two chapters every day we were in Maine last week, and we finished off the novel before coming home.
Once home, imagine my delight when I overheard Twin V saying “I reckon we’ll be going over the park…” and later “I reckon it’s almost time for dinner.”
I reckon he was paying attention after all.