Mark Twain Lesson for Kids: Biography & Books

Instructor: April Gwen Ellsworth

April has a master's degree in psychology and has experience teaching special populations from preschoolers to adults.

In this lesson you'll learn another name for the author Mark Twain, as well as how he got the inspiration for many of the children's books he wrote. By the time you finish reading, see if you can choose which one of his books you want to read first!

Mark Twain

When you write a story, you probably write about things you are familiar with, like your favorite sport or what you did over the summer. This makes stories interesting because you can put your own feelings and thoughts into them.

Mark Twain also wrote about his experiences, but instead of using himself as the subject of his books, he created characters that were like him and people he knew. His books for children have been popular for over 100 years. Maybe you have heard of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer--they are two young boys Mark Twain created.

Tom Sawyer fishing, as drawn in 1876.

His Early Years

When Mark Twain was young, he wasn't called Mark Twain. That's what he called himself after he became a writer. His parents named him Samuel Langhorne Clemens, and he was born in a town called Florida, Missouri on November 30, 1835. When he was four years old, his family moved to a town next to the Mississippi River called Hannibal, Missouri.

Hannibal is where Sam got a lot of ideas for the characters, settings, and themes he later wrote about. He listened to stories told by slaves working on his uncle's property, worked for a newspaper printer when he was only 11, and had boyhood adventures in a small town near a big river.

A Writer with Many Jobs

When Sam was 17, he left Hannibal and soon realized he was a good writer. He wrote newspaper articles, short stories, and books on many topics for adults. People enjoyed his writings because he made them laugh and also made them really think about important topics like government and poverty.

Sam returned to Hannibal for a few years to be a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River. He was also a soldier, miner, reporter, and even secretary to a Senator. He also traveled to many states and countries. All the while, Sam kept writing about his experiences.

Mark Twain in 1884, the year he wrote Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

A Father and Author

At age 35, Sam married Olivia Langdon in 1870, and over time they had four children. While a father, Sam wrote his famous children's stories as Mark Twain. In fact, he read each chapter to his wife and children as he completed them. Maybe you too would like to read these books! Here they are:

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) -- Tom Sawyer likes to do things that get him in trouble. His best friend is Huckleberry Finn, and he likes a girl named Becky Thatcher. Some of their adventures are fun and some scary, like those involving Injun Joe.

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