The Big Read 2012

Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.” – Mark Twain

‘Big Read: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ was held in Jan-Feb 2012. The event drew 1290 readers for this month-long program. It included seven island communities, 11 libraries, 22 non-profits, two school districts – along 100 miles of coastline.

There was singing, dancing, art, storytelling, book discussing and readings – all designed to delight, intrigue, enlighten and incite exploration.

A grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest and matched by Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, Bar Harbor Bank & Trust and private donations made this program possible.

January 17, 2012 KICKOFF

Students and community members were treated to an exciting introduction to Mark Twain and his book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by special guests, Huckleberry Finn and Dr. Barbara Snedecor from Elmira College. Marvin Merritt, an 8th grader at the time, played the role of Huckleberry Finn. Huck jumped out of the pages of Robert Bruleigh’s book The Adventures of Mark Twain to introduce his friend Sam Clemens.  The video clip is an excerpt from that performance.

Marvin had also been chosen to play Mike TV in the Cabin Fever production of “Willy Wonka” in March, 2012.

Dr. Barbara Snedecor continued the story about the life of Mark Twain focusing on his love of rivers, steamboats and Quarry Farm where he wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  Her presentation included slides of Sam Clemens early life, the Mississippi River and Quarry Farm the summer home of the Clemens family located in Elmira, New York.

At the time of the event, Dr. Barbara Snedecor directed the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies.  She has taught composition and literature at various colleges and universities and has published two novels and a variety of essays.  Her focus in Twain studies is autobiography, biography, and domesticity.  She is currently completing a book entitled Gravity: Selections from the Letters of Olivia Langdon Clemens.

From Top to Bottom: Dr. Barbara Snedecor; Quarry Farm; Steamboat on exhibit at the Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School; “Fabulous Fences and Wise Words” Exhibition at the Bass Harbor Memorial Library


Jesup Memorial Library goes all out for The Big Read


PE teachers from MDI and Deer Isle gather at the Trenton Elementary School to learn mid-1800s games to teach to grades 3-4-5 as part of The Big Read.

Sadly the Kick-off event on MDI with Mark Twain Impersonator John Pogson and Maine State Librarian Linda Lord had to be cancelled due to bad weather.

Big things are on the horizon thanks to The Big Read. Scores of free events will be offered now through Saturday, Feb. 11 including theater performances, films, art exhibits, public readings and lectures, music concerts, storytelling, game nights, book discussions, workshops and crafting sessions, and even logrolling classes at venues on Mount Desert Island, Deer Isle/Stonington, Swans Island, Islesford, Frenchboro and Isle au Haut. Oh, and there’s reading, too.

The whole shebang is geared around The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Mark Twain. “I think the beauty of this program is that you don’t necessarily have to be a reader,” said Candy Emlen, director of the Southwest Harbor Library. “You can participate in all the different programs that are offered and don’t even have to read the book and you’ll still get something out of it.”

– an excerpt from Melinda Rice’s article in the MD Islander on 1/5/12

With the advent of the Holiday Season approaching we thought this might be of interest to readers…

Letter from Santa Claus, as written by Mark Twain, to his daughter, Susie Clements:

“My dear Susie Clemens:

I have received and read all the letters which you and your little sister have written me by the hand of your mother and your nurses; I have also read those which you little people have written me with your own hands—for although you do not use any characters that are in grown peoples’ alphabet, you used the characters that all children in all lands on earth and in the twinkling stars use; and as all my subjects in the moon are children and use no character but that, you will easily understand that I can read your and your baby sister’s jagged and fantastic marks without any trouble at all. But I had trouble with those letters which you dictated through your mother and the nurses, for I am a foreigner and cannot read English writing well. You will find that I made no mistakes about the things which you and the baby ordered in your own letters—I went down the chimney at midnight when you were both asleep and delivered them all myself—and kissed both of you, too, because you are good children, well-trained, nice-mannered, and about the most obedient little people I ever saw…” 

To read the entire letter please visit our Resources section for Educators.

Our Big Read grant from National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest is for $9,000.00, which Island Readers & Writers must match through supporting grants and private contributions. Follow the Big Read blog.






Suggested Resources: For biographical material, activities and discussion guides, visit:

The Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum

Mark Twain House & Museum

Mark Twain Study at Elmira College

Mark Twain’s Scrapbook

IRW’s Book Talk for lots more resources!

The Big Read Steering Committee for the project consists of the following:

Jan Coates, IRW – project chair

Anna Carr, Northeast Harbor Library – book discussions, lectures and exhibits

Raney Bench, Abbe Museum – Native Americans; school programs, exhibits

Susan Guilford, DISES – program coordinator Deer Isle- Stonington, Isle au Haut

Dianne Waters, Trenton School Principal – school relations

Lisa Murray, Southwest Harbor Public Library – data management

Mel Rice, Mount Desert Islander – media relations and publications

Big Read program themes include:

  • 1830’s School Days
  • Childhood
  • River life: commerce, culture – the Mississippi vs. Penobscot and Union Rivers
  • Bias in literature
  • Native American tribes of 1830’s – New England vs. the Plains region
  • The art of storytelling
  • Twain the writer
  • Life and times of Mark Twain
  • Film, musical and theatrical adaptations of the story
  • Small town life
  • Much more…

The Steering Committee looks forward to working with community libraries,


and nonprofit organizations to develop a meaningful and memorable Big Read experience for all.

IRW provides supplementary materials to help bring books to life that teachers and students use in preparation for a school visit or community event.
Characters in Tom Sawyer
Christmas Letter from Santa
Countries Visited
Samuel Clemens Time Line
Mark Twain in 60 Minutes (video)
Tom and Beck (video)
Reader’s Guide for the Big Read
Teacher’s Guide for the Big Read
Toys, Games, Activities  mentioned in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer