Published: July 1st, 2014
The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher
By: Jessica Lawson
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
In 1860, eleven-year-old Becky Thatcher is the new girl in town, determined to have adventures like she promised her brother Jon before he died. With her Mama frozen in grief and her Daddy busy as town judge, Becky spends much of her time on her own, getting into mischief. Before long, she joins the boys at school in a bet to steal from the Widow Douglas, and Becky convinces her new best friend, Amy Lawrence, to join her.
Becky decides that she and Amy need a bag of dirt from a bad man's grave as protection for entering the Widow's house, so they sneak out to the cemetery at midnight, where they witness the thieving Pritchard brothers digging up a coffin. Determined to keep her family safe (and to avoid getting in trouble), Becky makes Amy promise not to tell anyone what they saw.
When their silence inadvertently results in the Widow Douglas being accused of the graverobbery, Becky concocts a plan to clear the Widow's name. If she pulls it off, she just might get her Mama to notice her again and fulfill her promise to Jon in a most unexpected way...if that tattletale Tom Sawyer will quit following her around.
I have to admire Jessica Lawson's ingenuity. As both a fanfic author and reader, I can more than respect a well thought-out "what-if" scenario. So, the switch in the personalities of Sid and Tom, along with the inclusion of Sam Clemens would have been more than enough to draw me in as a potential reader. Add in the fact that Becky Thatcher is actually the mischievous protagonist in this one, with Tom and Sid as side-characters, and you have me hooked like a large-mouth bass! Even with all of that aside, I actually really enjoyed this book! This is exactly the kind of book that I loved as a child, with a daring and adventurous heroine, well-drawn side characters (friends, family, etc.), and a rollicking plot full of fun. Becky has just moved to a small Missouri town with her parents, almost a year after the death of her much-loved and admired older brother, Jon. Becky's Daddy is busy being the town judge and has to deal with notorious thieves, the Pritchard brothers, on the loose and her Mama is sunk down into her grief, with no time for Becky. So she has plenty of time for mischief!
There are some sly allusions to the original stories by Mark Twain, especially with Sam Clemens as a stranded riverboat pilot, waiting on a part for his ship, and gathering material for stories he likes to write. Becky becomes friends with Sid Sawyer, almost immediatly puts the tattling Tom (brother of Sid) on her revenge list and is mostly just happy to make some friends and have adventures. But when attempting to get grave dirt for "protection spells" against the Widow Douglas (a known witch), so that the girls can win a five-dollar bet to take something from her house, they get into more trouble than they can handle! They stumble upon a grave-robbing and barely escape with their lives! Becky has to decide whether being grown up means telling the truth and accepting punishment, or having adventures - or if she can possibly do both. I love the writing style of Lawson in this book! Unlike Twain, the dialect isn't so heavy that you have a hard time reading it. It's still there, but not as thick. Also, there are some beautiful prose passages and Becky, is a loveable heroine who never once got on my nerves. Overall, I would recommend this even to people who just like historical fiction with a sense of humor, even if they've never read Mark Twain. You'll still like it, I promise. Or as Becky and Amy would say I "vow" it! :D
-- 'I found my way to the riverbank.
"Hello, Miss Issipi," I said. "You're looking awful pretty this morning, with that fog coming off your water. You're going your way and I'm going mine." I tipped my hat, but the Miss ignored me. I didn't mind a bit, though. I liked the river real well.
...I stared at the Miss, watching the first bit of sunlight make flashes on the water. I wondered if Jon up in Heaven could see those flashes, if he'd met Jesus at all, and if he'd put in a good word for me.'
-- "Kiss my grits," I swore. "That brother of yours has done it again." I hit Sid's shoulder.
Joe spit on the ground.
"How'd he find out, that sneak!" Though he sounded mad, I could tell Joe was as worried as the rest of us.
"I thought I saw Tom when I was putting out your flames," I told Sid. "Probably told Aunt Polly that I tried to set Mrs. Douglas's house on fire."
"Who's Mrs. Douglas?" Joe asked. His face wrinkled up like when Dobbins asked him a math question.
"You can go to jail for doing something like that!" Amy cried.
And the widow might go to jail for grave robbing, I thought. Maybe we'll be stuck in the same cell.
VERDICT: 4/5 Stars
*No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.*