The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy)


“This is a frank biographer and an honest one; she uses no sandpaper on me.”

                                                                Mark Twain

Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham

Published by Scholastic Press, 2010

ISBN 978-0-545-12508-6

Find this book: IndieBound, B&N, amazon, and goodreads

2010 CYBILS Nonfiction Picture Book Award

Best Children’s Books 2010 -- Publishers Weekly

Best Books 2010 -- School Library Journal

Best Books for Children and Teens 2010 -- Kirkus Reviews

Best of 2010: Books for Young Readers -- Washington Post

A Junior Library Guild selection

100 Titles for Reading and Sharing -- New York Public Library

Eureka! Nonfiction Children’s Books Gold Award, California Reading Association

Winner of the Oregon Spirit Book Award for Nonfiction -- OCTE

Oregon Book Award Finalist

NCTE Orbis Pictus Recommended Book

Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People

Notable Children’s Book in the English Language Arts

CCBC Choices 2011

Best Children’s Books of the Year -- Bank Street College of Education

California Book Award 2011 nominee

Texas Bluebonnet Award nominee

Utah Beehive Book Award nominee

Keystone to Reading Book Award nominee

Children’s Crown Award nominee

Kerley and Fotheringham again craft a masterfully perceptive and largely visual biography, this time about the iconic 19th-century American writer. In pursuit of truth, Susy Clemens, age 13, vows to set the record straight about her beloved (and misunderstood) father and becomes his secret biographer. Kerley uses Susy's manuscript and snippets of wisdom and mirth from Twain's copious oeuvre as fodder for her story. The child's journal entries, reproduced in flowing handwritten, smaller folio inserts, add a dynamic and lovely pacing to the narrative, which includes little-known facts about Twain's work.  The text flawlessly segues into Susy's carefully recorded, sometimes misspelled, details of his character, intimate life, and work routine during his most prolific years....A delightful primer on researching and writing biographies, and a joy to peruse. 


                                                                    School Library Journal, starred review

Kerley's conversational, quotation-rich narration effectively complements Susy's insights, and the result is an affectionate portrait of Twain as writer and family man…. Fotheringham's dynamically composed, digitally created full-bleed illustrations, both inventive and appealing, effectively recall the 19th-century setting, and big, swirling lines reflect the flourishes of an ink pen…. A heartwarming tribute to both the writing life in general and the well-loved humorist-oops, sorry Susy… "Pholosopher!"

                                                                                        Kirkus, starred review

Kerley and Fotheringham (What to Do About Alice?) pair up again to offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse of another famous family…. Kerley contextualizes the teenager's admiring musings with vivid familial backdrops…. Adding dynamic flair...are curlicues representing words, which emanate wildly from pen tips, pages, and mouths. Author notes about Susy and her father, a time line of Twain's life, and tips for writing an "extraordinary biography" complete this accessible and inventive vision of an American legend.

                                                                        Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Here the noted team of Kerley and Fotheringham…tails Susy as she tails Twain, offering a daughter’s-eye view of the great author and an inspirational model of what an observant child writer can accomplish without leaving home.”

                                           The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Book

“Inspired…. Perhaps this full-to-bursting book will lead some young readers to write their own in-house biographies…”

                                                        Washington Post

“Delectable….With the very funny daughter as a guide…Twain becomes way more accessible, especially for readers who will likely be encountering him here for the first time.”


It rocks, plain and simple…. It's the perfect sort of biography, really, because it is a biography of a biographer and her subject all at the same time: a child's-eye view of Twain from a person who knew him best.”

                                                                                Writing and Ruminating

A loving tribute to Susy’s father but also to fathers everywhere.”


                                                Books We Love – Park Ridge IL Public Library

“Delightful.”  Greensburg Sunday Tribune-Review

Did you know?...

YOU can write a biography, too, just like Susy did!  Just follow these tips!