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July 25 , 2007

Following the Equator - The Original Classic Edition


Any reader who loves a good book will relish the vicarious experience of traveling with Twain, his wife, Livy, and Clara, one of their three daughters as they tour the world on the lecture circuit. Its important to understand the necessity of the trip: Twain was 60, facing bankruptcy, and signed on for the lecture tour in order to pay off his debt. The grueling schedule and unpredictable travel accommodations take no toll on his writing, however. Prepare to laugh - hard and often. Was it hot in India? I believe that in India cold weather is merely a conventional phrase and has come into use through the necessity of having some way to distinguish between weather which will melt a brass door-knob and weather which will only make it mushy.

Teachers - do not pass on the opportunity to laugh and learn and share the world with your students. Geography, history, culture, language, climate, language arts (oh, his choice of words and phrases!), politics, time zones, botany, geology, biology, religion - all are explored and described and relevant today. Jimmy Buffetts Remittance Man, Thats What Living is to Me, and Take Another Road all spring from this book (especially the remittance man, a character youll meet early in the book). There is also an unfinished story with which you can challenge your students. I worked with nineteen 4th and 5th grade gifted students one summer, and they spent two weeks reading, scripting, and animating a 70 minute video of this book. They loved it, and so will your students if you plan accordingly.

A good accompanying video is On the Trail of Mark Twain with Peter Ustinov, but only as a companion - NOT as a replacement! Go for it... where else will you get the opportunity to travel from Vancouver to Hawaii to Fiji to Australia to New Zealand to Ceylon to India to South Africa? The book chronicles their travels in such a way that you can pick it up and focus on one region without losing anything. But dont let that stop you from reading the whole book. See the Southern Cross and the Blue Mountains. Get rousted out of your comfortable train berth to change cars in Australia because the gauge of the tracks changes from wide to narrow. Meet the dingo and the Aboriginals, eavesdrop on Twains conversation with Satan and God in India, explore the diamond mines of South Africa near the Trappist Monastery, and steer clear of the sharks in the Great Barrier Reef.

There is more adventure in this one book than a whole years subscription to National Geographic. My favorite part? Twains vivid description of that bird of birds - the Indian crow. No, wait, its the hand-car ride down the Himalayas. No, wait... ah, who can pick?

Read it yourself, and find out why

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