Read Tom Sawyer together!
Mark Twain’s boyhood home is in Hannibal, MO, about two hours north of St. Louis on the Mighty Mississippi. The setting and characters of Tom Sawyer are based on his childhood experiences in Hannibal.
The language is advanced, the sentence structure is complex and the descriptions are at times agonizingly detailed, but stick with it, it gets easier to understand at the plot develops. Expect to stop reading frequently at the beginning of the book to recap and explain meaning if your kids are on the younger side.
Writing Ideas: these can be done as you are reading Tom Sawyer. Most of them are based on ideas provided on the website for the Mark Twain Museum in Hannibal, MO.
Field Trip: The Mark Twain Museum and The Tom Sawyer Cave (Hannibal, MO)
At the museum, you can walk through the childhood home of Tom, Huck and Becky; pretend to white wash Tom’s fence; walk through some interactive scenes of Mark Twain’s stories; see original Normal Rockwell paintings of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn; and walk through an illustrated, chronological description of Mark Twain’s life and family. Just outside of the museum in the historic district of Hannibal, you can shop for small-town treasure at one of the gift shops, take a trolley tour or a haunted tour of the town, and pose with a statue of Tom and Huck.
A few miles down the road is the cave that Mark Twain was known to play in as a boy and inspired all of the cave scenes in Tom Sawyer. The tour was great as they retell the cave scenes from the book to the group, which was really fun for the kids. As an added bonus, we got to see one of Jesse James’ hideouts and a picture of his signature in the cave although they don’t let you approach the real signature. We also got really close to sleeping bats on the walls.
Science and Nature: All About Caves
Not only are the cave scenes really exciting in Tom Sawyer, but Missouri is actually called the cave state as it has the most natural caves of any state in the country. Many caves are still being discovered each day in Missouri. There are many, many books on the geology and zoology of caves. Here are a few that we enjoyed:
Videos: Bill Nye the Science Guy has an episode (Season 5, episode 12) on caves.