The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer

Trilling songbirds heralded dawn this morning,

soon after which I embarked upon completing my reading of

Writing a review, and scanning pictures, which was to occupy me until well into the evening.

This undated edition by Heirloom Library Limited bears the inscription “Gordon Xmas 1949”. It is my loss that it has languished unopened on my shelves for the 50 years since I bought it, presumably in second hand bookshop.

With the authors dry wit and sound knowledge of boys, their philosophy, their deviousness, their fluctuating relationships, their machinations, their vulnerable bravado, their games, their likes and dislikes, and their fundamental honesty, Twain introduces us to the eponymous protagonist with a series of exchanges of fast moving dialogue and descriptions of scrapes and speculation. Family, friends, and enemies are featured in this manner, while we have many examples of the author’s descriptive powers encompassing characterisation, place, and the natural world. He has an in depth knowledge of plants and wildlife effortlessly woven into tales of Tom and those around him.

Imaginary scenarios are invented and played out until exhaustion or boredom causes interest to wane; the passion is easily transferable.

Twain’s prose is poetic, with plenty of metaphor, such as “the sermon that wagged its crippled tail at the end of each and every one of them”; and alliteration, as in “varnished foliage and festooning vines” or “voluptuous votary of fashion”

Soon the action picks up and the important adventures begin, with excitement, dread, and wavering progress. We are reminded that even courageous children can wilt at the drop of a hat. Throughout everything the courage and leadership of Tom prevails.

Geoffrey Whittham’s immaculate illustrations are drawn with such perfect precision of perspective and movement.

The frontispiece is featured above; Here are the cover boards and spine;

and the endpapers, repeated back and front.

Where the black and white drawings appear opposite a page of text I have included this for those who wish to sample Twain’s prose.

There are 8 full page colour plates, including the frontispiece.

This evening we dined on the last of Jackie’s tasty chicken and vegetable stewp accompanied by pizza, with which I drank more of the Alentejano.


  1. I can tell you enjoyed the book. I feel like the edition I read long ago (my parents’ copy) also had illustrations. I wish I still had it to compare.

  2. I read that book or about him when I was very young so I don’t really recall it! Mm pizza… Happy Monday, guys. ????

  3. You have written an excellent review of the book, and presented an outstanding collection of scanned pages and drawings, a thoroughly fabulous article Derrick …

  4. What a delightfully illustrated edition you have! I enjoyed reading this book when I was much younger … it never found favour with either my own children or with my pupils: their loss.

    1. Thank you very much, Anne. Maybe we have to be adult to be amused rather than embarrassed by it 🙂

  5. A fave book and fave author from my childhood!
    What a great pairing of author and illustrator in this book! Thank you for sharing it with us!
    Will you be reading any more Twain? There are several more great books he wrote. 🙂
    (((HUGS))) ❤️❤️

  6. A beautiful edition, you did well finding it, Derrick. And your review makes me want to read this one again. It’s been a very long time since I read it.

  7. Fabulous review and you had to put in a lot of work to scan those lovely illustrations. I remember reading the book as a child, as well as Huck Finn.

  8. What a wonderful review of a world-revered author (see? a little alliteration). 🙂 I enjoyed your review so much – brought back memories of a book read so many years ago, before I was a writer and knew how to appreciate all the intricacies of good writing. The metaphors/similies – wow. And how I miss those days when illustrations were used so beautifully.

  9. I remember reading this as a child and loving Twain’s imagination! Such a great book. Look from the cover that yours is a collector’s item!

  10. What a great discovery… this book that was on your shelf, unopened all that time! Thank you so much for sharing it. Its artwork is as magical as the story itself. What a treasure!!

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