The history of Old Muddy and the role the river played in the life of Samuel Clemens make for an intriguing journey through the past in this biography. Filled with colorful and detailed drawings, each double-page spread delivers an intimate glimpse of life on the Mississippi in the early days of steamboats. Harness (Ghosts of the White House, 1998, etc.) makes clear how Twain's fascination with the river led to his first taste of adventure and influenced the course of his writing career. This is a pleasantly accessible and remarkably comprehensive introduction to an American writer; start children with this volume before handing them Kathryn Lasky's A Brilliant Streak (p. 497) or Alice Rose and Sam (p. 341).