Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In America’s Mark Twain, May McNeer presents the life story of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, the popular American humorist who published most of his articles, short stories, and novels under the name Mark Twain. The information in this biography is presented in narrative form and is accompanied by black-and-white and full-page color illustrations by McNeer’s husband, Lynd Ward. The biography includes nine chapters and is organized in chronological order beginning with Twain’s birth on November 30, 1835, and concluding with his death on April 21, 1910. The first and last chapters frame the biography by emphasizing the fact that Halley’s comet blazed across the sky at Twain’s birth and at his death.

In this biography, McNeer traces the development of the humorist as an individual and as an author by devoting more than half of the biography to events from Twain’s childhood and early adulthood. The influence of these events on Twain’s writing is emphasized by McNeer’s inclusion of “previews,” which consist of illustrations, advertisements, and substantial excerpts from Twain’s fiction. Each preview ranges from four to nine pags, emphasizes one book, and coincides with McNeer’s biographical narrative.

From the sickly baby who was not expected to survive, Twain grew into the mischievous boy who played hooky from school and who played pranks on his friends and enemies. Although he left school at the age of thirteen or...

(The entire section is 448 words.)