We’re up to chapter 14 in Tom Sawyer. The boys are on the island, grooving on the freedom and nature and the tastiness of the food. I ask how many campers we have in the audience, and I get at least half. Some are very enthusiastic.

“I would love to be on that island.”

Then there is the 35% that didn’t read.

Anyway, I’m trying to be more positive. And read more in class.

Of course I try to save all the good bits for reading aloud.

I skipped Tom Sawyer last year. That crew didn’t exactly have the longest attention spans in the world, so I saved myself the trouble. For some reason, I though the current bunch might be more receptive. I guess for the most part they are, but the early chapters are always a struggle. I swear the book gets more laughs when I explain/act it out than when we read Mark Twain’s actual words. It wasn’t like that when I started. They actually laughed at the sarcastic lines. Not just 5 or 6 in each class, but most of them. Back in the day, I used to be able to make a motion like I was chucking a bottle, and say “Scat you devil,” and have the kids know what I mean and laugh. Now I have to pause and explain, “you see, Huck is meowing, and just like last time, some guy thinks he’s a cat, and…”

sigh (Now get offa my lawn.)

But they never have been able to cope with the fact that the boys are swimming and wrestling in the water and playing clowns in a circus without any clothes on.

“Ewww. You mean they’re naked…naked?

“Is that a problem for you?”


“It’s not like Huck has a pair of jams or whatever. He probably doesn’t have any underwear–”


“-Except for maybe some long-johns. It’s no worse than those Speedos those guys wear at the pool.”


At the beginning of chapter 14, Mark Twain does a great job of describing the scene as Tom wakes up early the first morning they’re camping on the island.

 WHEN Tom awoke in the morning, he wondered where he was. He sat up and rubbed his eyes and looked around. Then he comprehended. It was the cool gray dawn, and there was a delicious sense of repose and peace in the deep pervading calm and silence of the woods. Not a leaf stirred; not a sound obtruded upon great Nature’s meditation. Beaded dewdrops stood upon the leaves and grasses. A white layer of ashes covered the fire, and a thin blue breath of smoke rose straight into the air. Joe and Huck still slept.

I pause and ask how many of them have ever been the first one up while camping, and could picture what Mark Twain was describing.

“I mean it’s just so peaceful and groovy, isn’t it?”

One of the hands agreeing with me is that of our little whirling dervish brother Tyrell, he of the brief moment of self awareness.

“So you know what Mark Twain is talking about huh? It’s a pretty cool time of day, isn’t it?”

“Yeah… You get up, and there’s nobody else around, and then…  you pee on the last of the fire. That’s how you get that little stream of smoke thing.”

I don’t have to describe the reaction. I think you’ve all been at this long enough to know how the next 10 minutes went.

(And no, I am not going to the premier of Hunger Games @ midnight. I don’t really go to the movies, let alone stay up until 2 in the morning to listen to cheeseheads ruin the dialogue, but my boy talked me into taking him next weekend. It does look pretty good, and Seneca’s beard is to die for. What kind of razor can do that? Go here and put a beard on it.)