According to author Jessica Lawson, Tom Sawyer was a tattletale and Becky Thatcher was the real rascal getting into all sorts of trouble in St. Petersburg, Missouri. That’s the inventive premise of this gem of a chapter book that stirs up all of the ingredients of the American classic to create a thoughtful, energetic new debut novel.

Lawson’s Becky is a tomboy who’s new to town. Her family is mourning the loss of Becky’s beloved older brother Jon―so much so that Becky’s mother has completely withdrawn. Meanwhile, Becky’s father, Judge Thatcher, is alarmed about a pair of outlaws on the loose.

A writer named Sam Clemens happens to be stuck in town due to a grounded steamboat. Becky befriends this “story man,” who carefully takes notes on Becky’s exploits and ideas (rafting down the river, the nickname Huckleberry, going to your own funeral and more).

Becky falls into a mess of trouble when she takes on a bet to try to steal something from inside the home of the Widow Douglas, reported to be a witch. There’s no end of excitement as Becky finds a new best friend, gets involved with grave robbers, uncovers stolen treasure and gets trapped in a cave with the outlaws.

Lawson borrows many elements from the original Tom Sawyer tale, but wisely, Becky is the star of this show, while Tom is an important but peripheral character who is “too scared to have his own adventures.”

Don’t worry, the story man assures Becky. “The name of Tom Sawyer might have some adventures in it yet.”

Young readers will race through this adventure, while teachers and adults will delight in its gold mine of creative parallels.

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