[Nonfiction Wednesday] Sassing Back and Keeping One’s Own Counsel: Mark Twain’s “Advice To Little Girls”

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Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2016 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year.

Poster done by Iphigene

Poster done by Iphigene

I was a huge fan of Mark Twain while I was growing up. I would have loved reading his advice to little girls when I was younger.

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Advice To Little Girls

Written by: Mark Twain Pictures by: Vladimir Radunsky
Published by: Enchanted Lion Books, 2013
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Award-winning book artist Vladimir Radunsky resurrected this caustic-but-honest, facetious-but-forthright text written by Mark Twain in 1865. True to form, this picturebook did not alter Twain’s original text which may make this quite a difficult read for younger readers without adult guidance. As Twain wrote this letter to young girls everywhere, he did not scale down his language because he was writing to children but assumed that the reader would be able to meet him where he is, which is exactly the kind of book I naturally gravitate towards.

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Twain gave very good advice on how girls should behave towards offensive teachers, deal with envy, and manipulate younger brothers – with a scalding at that – but only a little (contradicted quite fully by Radunsky’s visual image as you can see below):

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My favourite though is Twain’s advice to young girls who evidently has mother issues:

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If your mother tells you to do a thing, it is wrong to reply that you won’t. It is better and more becoming to intimate that you will do as she bids you, and then afterward act quietly in the matter according to the dictates of your best judgment.

I’d love to listen in to a young mother reading this aloud to a young girl and explaining what these lines mean. I was also especially pleased with the sassing back bit – because clearly there are old people who “sass” first:

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Paired with Radunsky’s irrepressible visual humour and irreverent art, Mark Twain’s fairly-innocent letter is transformed into a delightfully odd book that speaks a great deal of truths 151 years later.

  1. I’m not familiar with this one, but it looks like quite a book! Thanks for sharing!

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  2. I’ve seen this book elsewhere, and suspect it may be a delight when my granddaughters are a little older. Great illustrations too!

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  3. I have not heard of this book! Thanks for sharing some of the pages, looks like it could be quite a humorous book to read!

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  4. I’d never seen this book–thank you for sharing!

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  5. This would make a great pairing with The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy), Barbara Kearley’s 2010 book about Mark Twain, told from the perspective of his daughter.

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  6. I have never heard of this one. Twain had such a sly sense of humor.

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