Cover image for Mark Twain and the queens of the Mississippi
Mark Twain and the queens of the Mississippi
Harness, Cheryl.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, [1998]

Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations, color maps ; 25 x 26 cm
Focuses on this American author's connection with steamboats on the Mississippi River while also presenting a history of the craft.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 5.7 0.5 27689.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS1334 .H37 1998 Juvenile Non-Fiction Biography
PS1334 .H37 1998 Juvenile Non-Fiction Biography
PS1334 .H37 1998 Juvenile Non-Fiction Biography
PS1334 .H37 1998 Juvenile Non-Fiction Biography
PS1334 .H37 1998 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



"Ste-e-e-e-amboat's a'comin!" As a boy, Samuel Clemens loved it when a steamboat traveled up or down the Mississippi River to his town of Hannibal, Missouri. He'd run to the river bank and stare longingly at the boat that looked like a floating wedding cake, wishing he could be one of the lucky passengers or crew. As a young man, Clemens made his dream come true by working his way up to steamboat pilot. When the Civil War temporarily stopped the steamboats, Sam went west, where he began writing funny stories for newspapers. He signed one story "Mark Twain," a river term meaning two fathoms deep. It was a name he would eventually make famous through his lectures and books, the most popular of which were based on his boyhood days on the banks of the Mississippi. Mark Twain's life was curiously entwined with the Mississippi River and the majestic age of the steamboats. With a lively narrative sprinkled with quotes from Twain himself and dramatic panoramic paintings, Cheryl Harness has created fascinating portraits of America's biggest river and the great man it inspired.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 3^-6. Beginning with the geography and history of the Mississippi River and its steamboats, this colorfully illustrated book soon introduces its main subject: the river's most famous son, "Samuel, Judge Clemens's boy," later known as Mark Twain. While growing up in the riverside town of Hannibal, Missouri, the boy was apprenticed to a printer but talked a steamboat captain into teaching him to pilot a boat along the lower Mississippi, from St. Louis to New Orleans. The remainder of the book follows Twain's life as a writer, lecturer, and family man, returning again and again to the theme of the Mississippi. Full of action and color, the watercolor-and-colored-pencil illustrations give readers many vivid images of the river, the people who traveled it, the events that marked Twain's times, and the man himself. Some pages seem crowded with multiple images and type, but most maintain the clear focus and dramatic force of the story. An unusually lively picture-book biography and an accessible, informative introduction to the life of Mark Twain. Short bibliography appended. --Carolyn Phelan

Publisher's Weekly Review

In her standard approach, combining text, realistic art and maps annotated with historical information, Harness (Ghosts of the White House) presents a spotty portrait of Mark Twain and the majestic river that inspired much of his writing. The opening history of the area surrounding the Mississippi River devolves into meandering sentences that readers may find difficult to navigate (e.g., "As far back as three thousand years ago, people in the valleys of the Mississippi and the Ohio Rivers were building big burial mounds, and the river people built some of North America's first cities, such as Cahokia in what is now called Illinois"). Harness sometimes strains to interweave the story of Samuel Clemens's life and career with that of the stately steamboats' heyday. The connection is initially obvious: as a youngster, Clemens watches the steamboat operators in awe‘and with envy; later he works as a pilot on the Mississippi until the outbreak of the Civil War. But as Clemens's exploits take him far from its shores, the book skips haphazardly between highlights of his life, both personal and professional, and key developments on the river where steamboats were being usurped by the more efficient railroads. The twain do meet at story's end, yet the split focus makes for a fragmented narrative that gives neither the renowned novelist nor the Queens of the Mississippi their due. Harness's detailed, energetic watercolor and colored-pencil illustrations supply a vitality and focus missing from the text. Ages 6-10. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 3-5-Harness uses Mark Twain as a focus for a historical look at the Mississippi River and the steamboats that plied her waters. A double-page spread depicting the river's early users leads into a map of the Mississippi's various tributaries and the 2,348-mile journey it makes from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. In her signature style, Harness briefly describes the Mississippi's history, while surrounding images and hand-lettered information expand the presentation. When the author reaches the early 1800s, steamboats are introduced and then, in 1835, young Samuel Clemens comes on stage. Here, Harness touches on his determination to be a river pilot and his years as a newspaperman and writer, and then returns to the river and its role in the Civil War. She concludes with the decline of the steamboat and neatly ties Clemens's last years and death back to his Mississippi River days. The time period, deftly captured through dress and background details, sets the scene for a particularly warm and vivid portrayal of the famous writer. This book makes a great companion to Kathryn Lasky's biography, A Brilliant Streak (Harcourt, 1998), and to her novel Alice Rose & Sam (Hyperion, 1998), which features Sam Clemens as a major character. A fine link to the Mississippi River, to steamboats, and to Mark Twain and his books; Old Man River would be pleased.-Barbara Elleman, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.