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The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West

3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  441 Ratings  ·  129 Reviews
"Mark Twain was born fully grown, with a cheap cigar clamped between his teeth." So begins Sid Fleischman's ramble-scramble biography of the great American author and wit, who started life in a Missouri village as a barefoot boy named Samuel Clemens.

Abandoning a career as a young steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River, Sam took a bumpy stagecoach to the Far West. In the
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published July 29th 2008 by Greenwillow Books
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Monica Edinger
Mar 15, 2008 Monica Edinger rated it really liked it
I'm a big Mark Twain fan and thought Fleischman did a splendid job giving young readers a sense of the young writer through energetic and humorous writing. Goes down easily, well researched (Fleischman is clear that it is hard to separate fact from fiction with Twain), and designed too (at least the ARC was).
Nov 04, 2008 Wendy rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Melissa, Jack
(Very detailed review, because I'm prepping for a Mock Newbery discussion.)
Mixed feelings on this one.

I like what Fleischman did here--his biography of Mark Twain is colorful and funny, which makes total sense. The photographs and illustrations add a lot. And I liked that he included a long excerpt of Twain's writing, though I think I would have preferred an excerpt from anything more kid-friendly--Tom Sawyer, The Prince and the Pauper, Connecticut Yankee--to part of "The Jumping Frog of Calaver
Laura Petto
Mar 15, 2008 Laura Petto rated it really liked it
Mark Twain was certainly an unusual man that kids will love learning about in the book The Trouble Begins at 8. The real trouble will be getting kids to pick up this book. It’s wonderfully well written, highly amusing, and accurate, but I doubt if kids will want to read about Mark Twain, since few have read his books. The book is aimed for 9-14 year olds, and I am highly curious to know the nine year old who has read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or The Gilded Age. Even though I have already read ...more
Nov 24, 2008 Becky rated it it was amazing
Fleischman, Sid. 2008. The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain In the Wild, Wild West.

I loved Trouble Begins at 8. Loved it. Which is to say that I more than appreciated what it had to offer. More than saw it as a good nonfiction title. I mean really and truly loved, loved, loved it. Something I usually only reserve for fiction. Sid Fleischman is awesome. His writing is just amazing. His gift with words, his literary style, was just brilliant on this one. Listen to the first sentence of ch
Mar 10, 2008 Terry rated it really liked it
Who is Mark Twain? And What did he do with Samuel Clemens? Even if you know that "mark twain" is a riverboat term, there is still a lot to learn about the man born Samuel Clemens: his fascination with mining and get-rich-quick schemes; his travel to the South Pacific, and his evolution as a journalist. This illustrated biography looks into the adult life of Mark Twain and the life behind the famous stories.

This is fascinating reading. The author presents this biography in the same way Sam Clemen
Jun 22, 2008 Lynn rated it really liked it
Charming, funny and informative, Sid Fleischman's terrific book looks at Twain's early days when he began his literary journey with his travels to the American west. Filled with memorable quotes and in a style that honors Twain's, this is a book that will tickle the funny bone of a whole class in a read-aloud or an individual reader meeting Twain for the first time. The book appears young at first glance but I think the inclusion of so much of Twain's writing pushes the level up.
Nov 28, 2008 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
Shelves: humorous, nonfiction
Sid Fleischman's biography of this clever, funny man will appeal to a wide range of readers. Middle and junior high school readers will be able to appreciate the humor and wit in Clemens' musings, many of which are reproduced. A solid book that I would not be surprised to see garner awards at the end of the year.
Aug 29, 2012 Tami rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I love Sid Fleischman's biographies. The Trouble Begins at 8 is no exception. The title refers to Twain's own poster for his lectures which announced that the doors would open at 7 o'clock with "The Trouble to Begin at 8 o'clock."

The advantages to Fleischman's biographies (I highly recommend his other two on Harry Houdini and Charlie Chaplin.) are: (1) he approaches his subject with the sensibilities of a Newberry-Award-winning novelist, which is to say, as a story; (2) his language is easily ac
Mark Twain is by far my favorite canonical author of American literature. Or just literature in general. He is so incredibly quotable and subverts the status quo so his larger than life persona is certainly a biographer's dream. I enjoyed this book for the most part. I did, however, think it was hard to distinguish whether this was a book for kids or adults. Yes, I found it in the juvenile section of the library, but there were many occasions where I thought to myself that this book would fare b ...more
Gr 5-9-This biography covers enough of Samuel Clemens's youth for readers to appreciate how autobiographical Twain's later novels were, but the seven years that the writer spent meandering the Wild West are at the heart of the book. Fleischman chronicles Clemens's various bouts of gold fever and get-rich-quick schemes in the Nevada Territory and the San Francisco area, but shows that it was always his newspaper writing that provided stability. At age 30, Clemens was reborn as Mark Twain when his ...more
Jun 02, 2009 Marian rated it liked it
1. A fast read. Surprising for any biographical book regardless of its intended audience.
2. This book largely succeeded in reflecting the adventurous and humorous life of Mark Twain with its writing style.

1. I realize if I wanted to learn more about Mark Twain perhaps I should have began with his own autobiography. (Or at the very least Wikipedia.)
2. I'm not sure (even with a more adventurous writing style) this book would interest its intended young audience. As for we adults, I wou
Jordan Croom
time is engaging for a wide range of students.
Another book that was featured by the Orbis Pictus award for outstanding nonfiction for children, was The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West, by Sid Fleischman. Fleischman’s story of Samuel Clemens tells the coming of age story of a nobody that’s adventurous life turned him into a very well-known somebody. Starting in his childhood Fleischman walks the reader through Mark Twain’s early years, giving the reader a good id
RJ McGill
Apr 09, 2008 RJ McGill rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed, kids
Reading about Twain can be fun and Fleischman proved it!

A thorough, detailed, beautifully written book about one of the most beloved authors of all time, Samuel Clemens, but we know him as the master-writer of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer... Mark Twain.
Sid Fleischman has once again taken a topic that causes most kids to run screaming in the opposite direction - and made it interesting, intriguing and most importantly - Fun! You will thoroughly enjoy the wisecrack for which the book is named..."The
Teresa Scherping
Nov 16, 2013 Teresa Scherping rated it really liked it
As a young troublemaker growing up in small-town Hannibal, Missouri, Sam Clemens never would have guessed that he would someday become the wealthy and famous author Mark Twain. (We should be glad he chose the river jargon Mark Twain as his pseudonym because we might have ended up with a distinguished American literary figure named W. Epaminondas Blab or Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass.) During his wild and varied life, Sam would work as a printer, a Mississippi riverboat pilot, a journalist, a gold p ...more
Melissa Dwyer
Aug 04, 2015 Melissa Dwyer rated it it was amazing
Originally rated E by Marta Wilkin
Sid Fleischman’s biography of Mark Twain is similar the author’s portrayal of Harry Houdini in Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini. The book is much or anecdotal than the typical biography and mainly covers the time Clemens/Twain spent in the West during and after the Civil War. There are many great illustrations, both drawings and photographs. Twain’s famous short story, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, is found at the end of the book, along
Jan 19, 2009 Toby rated it liked it
Everything about this book suggests the time and place and life of Mark Twain: off-white creamy paper, flourishes on each chapter heading, archival photographs, cartoons and paintings. Fleischman’s style is also appropriate, folksy and humorous, with comments such as ‘Nothing traveled fast in those days except the common cold’. Short chapters, double-spaced text, oversized format and tidbits of interesting information will draw young readers into this biography, Fleischman’s second in two years ...more
Apr 13, 2009 Jess rated it really liked it
I'm not a big Twain fan, so I was a little unsure going into this one. But let me tell you - this is a great story on its own merits. Sure, I think it would help going in to know what a famous literary figure Twain turned into, but I don't buy the argument that kids won't read it because it's about a dead writer they don't care about. Fleischman does a fantastic job of showing the tragedy, humor and adventure in Twain's life, using a chatty, over-the-top style that's perfectly suited to his subj ...more
Aug 25, 2009 Chris rated it it was amazing
Mark Twain was born fully grown, with a cheap cigar clamped between his teeth . . .

While not as in-depth as a scholarly biography of Twain for adults nor the same as reading Twain himself, this is probably the next best thing in both instances--an engaging way to introduce kids to both the man and his writing. Fleischman has always been a clear descendant of Twain and he does a good job of using Twain-like language to tell the story of the man's early years, how he went from being born Samuel C
I was browsing the new non-fiction titles in the children's section at the library, looking for any books about penguins or dinosaurs that might interest my 3 year old when this book caught my attention. The book itself, the size, cover, photographs and illustrations were appealing and I was curious to read a biography about Mark Twain that was written for children.
Writing a biography about Mark Twain can't be an easy task, especially one aimed at young children. Twain did not exactly leave a lo
Jan 04, 2013 Alicia rated it liked it
The cool title gets explained in the foreword of this biography of Mark Twain as well as every silly and serious thing that happened to Mark Twain. While nothing delves too deep into any of the events, the stories he published, the books or the life he led, it does paint a broad picture of the man that took to wearing white suits in his later years. Everything from his time on a Mississippi steamer to his travels out west and his love for Hawaii (then called the Sandwich Islands-- which was a ne ...more
Holly M
Nov 24, 2013 Holly M rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
The Trouble Begins at 8 is a chapter book that also includes pictures from Mark Twain’s life, illustrations from his books, and photos of movie adaptations. This book covers the span of his life, from birth to death. The beginning of the book refers to Mark Twain by his birth name, Sam Clemens, and discusses his childhood in Missouri and how it helped to shape his stories later on in life. Sam Clemens adventures away from his family at age 17 and begins his adult life training and working as a s ...more
Karen Ball
Jun 05, 2011 Karen Ball rated it really liked it
Have you met Mark Twain? If you haven't, or if you met some stodgy old coot, you should pick up this biography and meet the hilariously funny alter ego of Samuel Clemens! The title of Sid Fleischman's newest book comes from the original publicity posters created by Mark Twain for his first lecture: "Doors open at 7, the trouble to begin at 8." Samuel Clemens was one for adventure of all kinds, from piloting riverboats on the Mississippi, writing as a journalist, humorist and novelist, prospectin ...more
Nov 11, 2013 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
Really enjoyed this one. Ordering it for our kiddos this morning, in fact--can't believe I missed this one.

Thanks to our library's OverDrive service, I've been able to double-up on a lot of my "reading" by doing Audio books while I have "quality-stack-time" around the library.

This was a great recounting of Mark Twain's life--it pulls in a lot of Twain's own words, so you get a lot of his original wit. I found myself laughing out loud quite a few times. (I know, shhh-right?) Sid Fleischman cover
Nov 10, 2013 Heather rated it really liked it
Fleischman captures the life and humor of Mark Twain beautifully as he tells the story of his life. The addition of the pictures, both original photos and graphic representations, add a tremendous amount to the story of Twain's life. The trouble for Twain may well have begun the day he was born rather than his first public speech. The author paints a vivid picture of Twain's days as a steamboat pilot, a prosecutor, lecturer, and of course an author. We are introduced to Samuel Clemens and his ad ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jul 24, 2009 Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance rated it it was amazing
Shelves: west
Who better to tell the story of that wonderful storyteller, Mark Twain, than that wonderful storyteller, Sid Fleischman? Fleischman starts at the beginning and relates all the tales about the man, Mark Twain, true and apocryphal. It was the aphorisms that was so wonderful: “Man---a creature made at the end of a week’s work when God was tired” and “Man is the only animal who blushes---or needs to” and “Everybody complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it” and “The reports of my ...more
David James
Sep 14, 2012 David James rated it really liked it
Countless scholarly tomes have been written about Mark Twain, but as this book proves, sometimes the authors of children's books can beat the experts at their own game. This one has its questionable claims (and the author admits as much), but what it does do is capture the spirit of the man as it explores the path by which Samuel Clemens became Mark Twain. Fleischman has a wonderful sense of humor that is well suited to presenting Twain, the Man, and he uses it abundantly here. And despite this ...more
Nov 24, 2009 Treasa rated it liked it
I knew very little about Mark Twain when I started reading this book. Now that I have finished it, I feel that I actually have some sort of knowledge of this famous writer. Fleischman's writing is generally easy to understand and follow. He tells Twain's story in a mostly chronological way, sometimes throwing in a foreshadowing of things that are to come later (such as when mentioning a book that will later be based on an event that is happening at the present time). There are many photographs a ...more
Mar 18, 2012 Jess rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Twain fans
Recommended to Jess by: the acres and acres of praise
As Twain added to his speaking tour posters, "Trouble Beings at 8."

Fleischman did his homework. The book is well sourced, mostly truthful (we're dealing with Twain, after all), includes a detailed time line, and has plenty of pictures and illustrations.

That said, the writing was too flowery for me. Each pages is jammed with figurative language. The plates and illustrations break up the text in ways kids aren't necessarily used to. Based on all this, plus some of the phrasing and jokes, I think
Mandi Ellsworth
I didn't know much about Mark Twain, other than reading a few of his books, and hearing a few of his witty quips. This book was a good introduction to the life of an American icon. It was fascinating to hear about his crazy travels and the things he did to get him chased out of town (or towns). Apart from his comedy, he was a remarkably cynical man, who generally thought the human race deplorable. My favorite quote was from his best friend of many years. He said something to the effect that Mark ...more
Brooke Shirts
Nov 14, 2008 Brooke Shirts rated it really liked it
A biography of Twain's early years, written in the clever vernacular style of Twain himself. Fleischman pulls off a dazzling array of wittily formed, down-home sentences, and his research is top-notch. Fleischmann is especially interested in pulling attention to all of the real events from Twain's life that inspired his stories. You'll get to meet the coal miner who gave Twain the inspiration for "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," experience firsthand the tall-tale account of the ...more
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As a children's book author Sid Fleischman felt a special obligation to his readers. "The books we enjoy as children stay with us forever -- they have a special impact. Paragraph after paragraph and page after page, the author must deliver his or her best work." With almost 60 books to his credit, some of which have been made into motion pictures, Sid Fleischman can be assured that his work will m ...more
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“Joy was not the raw material of humor . . . The dark source was sorrow.” 3 likes
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