Author Study Examples

By Gina Reich Guzman. Reprinted with permission.

Introduction: Mark Twain Author Study

As I was doing some planning for my family’s Mark Twain author study I realized that you all may find it helpful to see how we do an author study. Keep in mind that our author studies are informal and interest based. Personally, I don’t care if we spend a week or a year on any particular author. My main goal is to give my kids another tool to help them find great books throughout their lives. My other goal is to expose my children to as much of the actual writing process and thoughts of authors as possible in hopes of inspiring their own writing.  I will add content to this page as we go through our Mark Twain study.


Mark Twain for Kids: His Life & Times by R. Kent Rasmussen. Chicago Review Press. 200.  This is the activity and background information resource that I will use with my 9 and 12 yo. 

The Life & Work of Mark Twain. Lectures by Professor Stephen Railton, University of Virginia. The Great Courses from The Teaching Company2002.  DVD.  This is the college lecture set that I am using with my teen. It can be rather dry but he is enjoying the information presented. Some of our reading list will be coming from the books and short stories covered in these lectures. 


We are currently only doing Twain’s short stories. Once a week (usually Sunday) I read a short story aloud to the family and we briefly discuss it. After a break (ie for lunch, snack, outside time, etc.) the kids then sit down and watch the lecture (Drakon and I) or read from the Mark Twain for Kids book (Tide & KodyGirl). If the girls want they are then welcome to do one of the projects from the MTFK book while Drakon and I discuss the more interesting bits of the lecture. Drakon tends to work in 1 hour time blocks and the girls work in half hour time blocks.

Since Drakon is finding this author study far more interesting than the girls he has chosen to read all of the books featured on the video lectures plus whatever else catches his fancy.  

Our Reading List

Family Read Alouds (late grammar through rhetoric stages):

Mark Twain: Humorous Stories & Sketches edited by Stanley Applebaum & Philip Smith. Dover Publications. 1996.       

              The Stolen White Elephant    

The Mysterious Stranger & Other Stories edited by Stanley Applebaum. Dover Publications. 1992.

             The Notorious Jumping Frog from Calaveras County 

Drakon only (rhetoric stage):

Roughing It edited by Harriet E. Smith & Edgar M. Branch. University of California Press. 1993.

Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court 

Innocents Abroad

Pudd’nhead Wilson

My Autobiography: “Chapters” from the North American Review.  

various lectures, essays and letters 


We are choosing to watch the more popular Twain books as videos, leaving us time to read some of his more obscure works. 

Huck Finn

Tom Sawyer