I wanted to love this book.  I love Mark Twain's books.  I even took a course devoted to his writing when I was in graduate school.  I forced my husband to make a vacation stop at Twain's home in Connecticut.  I've been known to quote (excessively, some might say) his writing. But this book just didn't live up to my hopes.

First of all, it felt as if Susy's writing was literally de-emphasized by its placement into the smaller, inserted pages.  If the book claims to be what Susy wrote, then that's what it should be. While I liked that the author chose to retain Susy's misspellings, the type font didn't really convey the sense of her manuscript.  I would have liked to have seen some facsimile pages.

Secondly, it gives only a limited sense of Twain.  If the whole focus had been Susy's, I would understand the limitations.  But given the interplay between Kerley's text and Susy's, it seems an awkward omission. So much of Twain's life is missing here that it can hardly count as a biography.

However, in spite of these misgivings, some aspects work very well.  I liked Fotheringham's illustrations a great deal, and I especially found strong Kerley's suggestions at the end of the book for how a reader might go off and gather information for writing a biography.  Students would benefit greatly from using her ideas to question a family member or an interesting adult in their lives, to begin to understand how a biographer works.

Overall, then, I might not recommend this book as a biography of Mark Twain, but I would recommend it as a teaching tool about biographies and how to write one.