We decided to head back to a classic tale set in the mid-1800’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain after The Trumpet of the Swan. I don’t ever recall having read this book and I thought my kids would enjoy it and we sure did.
We meet Tom Sawyer playing hookey from school and his Aunt Polly upbraiding him for it. He is an affable boy of 12 whose life purpose is to have a good time.
Early in the book we see perhaps the most famous scene of Tom Sawyer when Tom is put upon by Aunt Polly to whitewash the fence and he in turn manages to get all of the neighborhood boys to do his work for him by tricking them and telling them it takes a lot of skill to do this. He discovers the principle of reverse psychology and as the narrator says “he had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it–namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain.” Classic!
We follow Tom in his adventures, including when one night he and Huck Finn sneak out of the house and go to a cemetery and witness a murder. Tom ends up testifying at the trial and ends up freeing a man wrongly accused. We see him take a beating at school for the girl he likes, Becky Thatcher. He decides to “play pirate” and him and three other boys go and live on an island for a few days during which time the townsfolk take them for dead and Tom and his friends show up at their own funerals! And we see him and Huck on a quest for buried treasure and they find it in a cave that Tom and Becky get lost in!
In the end, both Tom and Huck split the stolen money and with proper prudence from Becky’s dad who is a judge the boys become the richest people in town.
This book is fast-paced with no dull moments. Full of great moral values for the times. Huck frees a man wrongly accused by testifying of what he saw that night in the graveyard. Twain propounds “knowledge is worth more than anything there is in the world” when Tom fusses about memorizing Bible verses. Tom feels bad about tricks he plays on his aunt. He discovers “that to promise not to do a thing is the surest way in the world to make a body want to go and do that very thing.” When the boys are missing and when Tom and Becky are lost in the cave, the families and the whole town pray and search for them.
Short and fun and full of teaching moments and of what life once used to be like in the 1860’s and how life has changed. For example, Tom and Huck return to the cave to find the treasure. They take a boat and travel 5 miles down river. I told the kids that could never happen today. One, their parents wouldn’t let them. Two, the cops would be called if they were discovered. Three, most kids can’t sail a boat at age 12. But back then it was commonplace. When the boys are “playing pirate” on the island, they light their own fires, fish for their own food, build a shelter, and basically go camping today but with no modern conveniences. Great fun and highly recommended!