Mark Twain and the Queens of the Mississippi
Simon & Schuster, Fall 1998 (notable book:social studies-cbc)
ISBN 0-689-81542-5

Sam supposed that all a pilot had to do was to keep his boat in the wide river. How hard could that be? But he soon found out that beneath the shimmery top of the river lurked all kinds of dangers waiting to bash a boat's brains out: sandbars, dead trees, rocks, and boat wrecks. A pilot had to "read" the face of the water: how it looked told what it was hiding. He had to know the changing shape of the troublesome river upstream and down, every bend, every plantation, town and island by heart so he could steer in inky dark or moonlight and not bump the boat into the bank or the bottom.

What fun this book was to study for, to write, to paint - especially the painting part. But how do I balance two books in one? That was the interesting, fun puzzle-question of this book. It's a biography of the complicated, funny-sad man who grew up by the Mississippi River, became a steamboat pilot, and ended up writing Tom Sawyer and the (totally brilliant) Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It's a story of the glory days of the steamboats, the big, dangerous wedding-cake like boats that queened over the mighty river. It's both.

The Mark Twain House
Treasures of the Steamboat Arabia - This is the website for the Kansas City museum devoted to the Steamboat Arabia that went down in 1856. Some hardy fellows found it: a time capsule from steamboat days.
The Legend of Steamboatin' - The Grand Old South


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