For the Sew Many Books series, I chose to write about 2 books by Mark Twain. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I read the books on my own around the 5th grade, and again as a class project in high school. Both times I was shocked and thrilled; and these books definitely shaped my interest in American History, Social Studies, and Literature. Reading them for the third time as an adult; I’m also very interested in the psychology of the author. What is it about the characters of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn that have always resonated so strongly for me? The books were published in 1876 and 1884, and set in about the 1850s along the Missisippi River.
One of the things I love most about the books is their ability to capture the spirit and innocence of a child. As we grow into adults, we lose so much of our wonder for the world around us. That’s what I wanted to capture in these photos.
In some ways, the boys in these books seem much younger than their 13 years; despite the harsh world they lived in. Their pockets are full of “treasures”, such as pinch bugs, bits of string, or a broken knife handle. At one point, Tom trades Huck his freshly pulled tooth for a live tick. Respectable boys were expected to memorize Bible verses, which always perplexed Tom. He considered Huck the luckiest boy in the world for not having to suffer through school and church. Tom regularly played hooky from school, and opted to swim and go fishing with “Hucky” instead.
Shoes were not worn during the summer months, except to church on Sunday.
Huckleberry Finn wears the cast off clothing of full grown men. They are likely cut off or torn at the knee, and are “held up with only one suspender”. His straw hat is beat up, and he is described as “fluttering with rags”. My nephew Julian is playing Huck. For his outfit, I used Oliver+S Sketchbook Shorts. I made them bigger than his size, and left the bottoms un-hemmed.
Tom Sawyer owned 2 outfits; his “everyday” clothes, and his “other clothes” which were only worn on Sunday. Vain attempts were made by his aunt to keep him tidy and respectable. My nephew Evan is playing Tom, and he chose the Pier 49 Convertible Pants from Peek-A-Boo Patterns. I extended the length and sewed the cuffs down for this version.
I have been reading them bits and pieces of the book, and simplifying it for them due to heavy, antiquated southern antebellum language. It is a book meant for older readers, and there are parts I feel they should be shielded from for now. Nevertheless, it has opened up a lot of discussion about history and the differences between now and then.
No matter how much times have changed, I couldn’t help but observe how much the nature of boys is still the same. They still love to get dirty. They revel in open space, and love exploring. They still sulk when adults hinder their fun.
Tom & Huck played robbers, climbed trees, and even found hidden treasure. My nephews…well, they find adventures too. Today, they drove their bicycles down a hill and into the lake. Somehow, it seems to fit with the nature of their characters.
Hey, what are ya gonna do?! After all, boys will be boys!
I’ve focused more on the books than I did on the sewing for the Sew Many Books series because of the heavy subject matter within the pages. It’s unavoidable that one day our children will be forced to realize that the world isn’t a perfect place, and that there is ugliness in human history and society today. I sincerely hope that when that day comes, mine will understand that sometimes there is a difference between what is morally righteous and what is socially acceptable. If I do my job right, they will choose God’s love over man’s ideas, the way Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn chose friendship over what society’s beliefs.
“Just because you’re taught that something’s right and everyone believes it’s right, it don’t make it right.” ― Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Most of all, I want them to seek out the beauty inside people, and in the world.
HandJ Cobb says
What an amazing pair of outfits! And your photo shoot is lovely, these are just too cute! I have my nephew and son with me here today all I could think was how cute a Huck Finn themed photo shoot would be! Truly wonderful work as Always, Amy!
amy mayen says
Do you know…the boys were the best little models! They were so natural…not like the girls always doing weird ninja poses!! Haha!
Great job on the outfits and the awesome write up about the book!! I love the photos, too, and think your nephews were perfect for the roles!!
R.F. Dietz says
Amy is the girl! She is so sweet and fun and I am a HUGE fan of these pictures and this blog was great. The world isn’t perfect and it is a sad realization that we all have to come to one day, including our sheltered little babies. Well done!
amy mayen says
We took the boys camping to get those photos. I read them bits of the book, and it sparked some of the most amazing conversation. They couldn’t imagine a world without cable, cell phones, and cars.
It was crazy trying to explain racism and slavery to a 6 year old. It is completely unfathomable to a child. If an innocent child can’t grasp the concept, it just shows how unnatural it is.
Pam @Threading My Way says
Oh, Amy, I want to go out right now and get both books to re-read. A FANTASTIC, thought provoking post, with simply AWESOME photos.
amy mayen says
I love the photos…wish they all looked like that!
OnceUpona Sew says
Great post Amy! It has been a long time, makes me want to pick these books back up again. Your nephews are very handsome in their roles! Really love Evan’s pants, and the picture of the bike and Julian in the lake is priceless! My dad and his brothers use to do just that ride their bikes off the pier…
amy mayen says
Oh my gosh. I told them to go be boys and do whatever they want. Then I got scared. They were making mud angels…completely, whole body in the mud. Their mom would’ve died!
The pants are well-made, and photos are fantastic! The boys must have had fun, diving to the lake on bike 😉
I read the books when was younger, not knowing they were controversial. This post made me think I should read them again!
amy mayen says
100%, read them again if you get a chance. I’m so glad you liked it!
Lisa Nelson says
Fabulous! Fabulous Fabulous!
Kim M says
Amy I love this post! I do costumes for a children’s theater group and this was one of my favorite shows! Like you did when reading, the edges of the story were smoothed out for the kids, but it the musical really played up the boys’ rambunctious and adventurous natures. I love your outfits and your photos! You are an amazing seamstress and photographer!
amy mayen says
Oh Kim, thanks so much! I have to give all the credit to my nephews, they were the inspiration. They loved hearing the stories about their characters, and I think they both enjoyed all the “naughty” behavior and trouble their characters got into! This was the most fun photoshoot I ever did, and my most favorite thing I’ve written. Your compliment means a lot to me, thank you!
Irene V. says
Great Amy! I love how you tried to explain to your nephews the history behind the book(s) (and I bet they’ve been more than happy to be camping and river bathing wearing pants LOL!
You rocks (and your pics are hearly perfect!)
MammaNene @ SergerPepper
Mel@Mellywood's Mansion says
Firstly I love Amy I think her and her blog are just amazing. This is a bheautiful post to go along with her amazing sewing talents, beautiful Amy and again Emily this has been a fab series
Amy of While Wearing Heels says
Oh Amy, what a wonderful way to summarize this book and to relate it to what our kids will experience in the world and what you hope they’ll learn. I might get a little weepy. The pictures you took were precious. The family resemblance runs deeps in your family.