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Historical Fiction, Humor, Middle Grade Readers, Mystery/Adventure

THE ACTUAL & TRUTHFUL ADVENTURES OF BECKY THATCHER by Jessica Lawson

Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky ThatcherI liked a lot of moments in The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher.  The author’s decision to portray Becky Thatcher (the classic character from Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer) as a bold and daring spitfire of a young girl in 19th Century America is perfect.  Becky’s character is well-defined and three-dimensional in thought and feeling.

In Twain’s classic she is a secondary figure–primarily a nuisance–to Tom Sawyer.  She truly comes into her own in Lawson’s re-imagining.  Before the arrival of Becky and her family into town, her brother has died from illness and the way the author was able to weave in the struggle of Becky’s mother with her grief–and Becky’s frustration with it is skillfully done.  it is this element in particular that allows the book to resonate to a greater degree with contemporary young readers than its predecessors.

I enjoyed the way the author brought Sam Clemens (Mark Twain, himself) into the story as a character–even if it became forced in a couple of places. I was also delighted by the role of the Widow Douglas, which enhanced the scope of her character from the original Twain story.  I do, however, have a BIG issue with the way Lawson has reversed the characters of Tom Sawyer and his cousin (brother in this version) Sid.  It was unnecessary given that she kept two male characters with the exact same personality traits as in the original Tom Sawyer.  The switching of Sid and Tom smacks of a disdain for Twain’s work not found in the rest of Becky Thatcher.  I am not opposed to reimagining a classic character in a new way as long as it serves the new story well.  In this case it does not.  I am disappointed that new readers may be introduced to Sid and Tom in this light–especially since Lawson thought enough of Twain’s characters to change nothing but their names.

My own disappointment aside, young readers with no exposure to Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer will not see a discrepancy in story where Sid and Tom are concerned.  Particularly young female readers will love The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher.  This might be a fun read-aloud in conjunction with a version of Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer both for the benefit of two good stories and the opportunity to discuss the differences in approach to character.

If The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher sounds interesting, or you have already read & enjoyed it you may also like Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic Anne of Green Gables, Audrey Couloumbis’ The Misadventures of Maude March and The Case of the Deadly Desperados (first in the P.K. Pinkerton series) by Caroline Lawrence (which also includes Samuel Clemens as an engaging character).

 

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