A Horse’s Tale

Our rating: ***

Soldier Boy, Buffalo Bill’s horse, is one of the finest scout horses in the west. When an orphan named Catherine comes to stay with General Alison, Kathy becomes good friends with everyone at the garrison, including Buffalo Bill who allows her to ride Soldier Boy. After a period of time, Kathy, General Alison, and some others return to Spain (Kathy’s home), and they take Soldier Boy with them. Unfortunately, Soldier Boy is stolen and eventually is killed in a bullfight.

This is reminiscent of A Dog’s Tale in that the hero of the story, Soldier Boy, dies. However, it takes it a step further because Kathy dies too! There are some funny parts, particularly one in which Soldier Boy and another horse discuss what makes something a reptile — “That any plantigrade circumflex vertebrate bacterium that hadn’t wings and was uncertain was a reptile.”

The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Other Sketches

Our rating: **½

This book is collection of several short stories by Mark Twain. The highlights include the title story, about a man who bets on a frog jumping race; and The Bad Little Boy, a cynical tale of a boy who is very bad, and yet has the best of luck.

If you like your humor a bit on the cynical side (I do), this one is for you. Otherwise, you’ll probably dislike these five stories. The link to Amazon is a different book, with several more stories in it. I don’t know what they are, but it was the only one I could find.

The Adventures of Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass

Our rating: *

This book is a collection of “letters” written by a fictitious man named Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass, to the Keokuk Saturday Post. They tell of this peaceable stranger’s experiences in the outside world, including a train ride and seeing a play.

There is some bad language, as there is in most of Mark Twain’s books. I can’t say that I found the letter all that funny. I would put them at fair-to-moderately humorous. Humorous should not be confused with funny. In my mind, humorous refers to a smile and light guffaw or snort, while funny would be a grin and chuckle or giggle. That being said, I will add that, as I have mentioned in most of my Mark Twain reviews, his wry good humor is all over it.

A Dog’s Tale

Our rating: **

Here, Aileen Mavourneen tells the story of her life. She led a pleasant existence until one day when she was sleeping in the nursery, she woke up to find the baby’s crib in flames. She dragged the baby out of the crib and into the hall, where the master found her and kicked her, thinking she was hurting the baby. Upset by the reprimand, Aileen went upstairs and hid in the garret until the owners realized what she was really doing and apologized. The very sad part of the story was when the master performed an experiment on Aileen’s puppy, which blinded it and eventually caused its death.

I know it sounds rather gloomy, and the end is gloomy, but there are funny parts in it, too. Particularly Aileen’s mother’s habit of using long words. The whole story is told in Mark Twain’s cynically humorous style.

A Murder, a Mystery, and a Marriage

Our rating: **

John Gray, a farmer, and his wife Sarah, live more-or-less happily with their grown daughter Mary in the little town of Deer Lick, Missouri. Mary and Hugh Gregory, the son of a neighbor farmer, are in love and are about to be engaged when John Gray finds out that his rich brother left all his money to Mary. “What’s wrong with that?” you ask. Well, John’s brother hates Hugh. Wanting to secure wealth for himself, John Gray tells his daughter she can’t marry Hugh. Then, while John Gray is walking one day, he finds a well-dressed stranger lying in the snow, but no footprints are to be seen. The stranger calls himself Mr. George Wayne, but Mrs. Gray soon finds out that he’s really Count Hubert dee Fountingblow. Spurned on by greed, Mr. Gray tries to make a match between the count and Mary, but Mary doesn’t love him. In the midst of this, David Gray is murdered and Hugh is accused and imprisoned. Who really killed David Gray? Will Hugh be proved innocent or guilty?

I’ll give you three guesses and the first two don’t count. Shall we say, predictable? It does have some humorous parts. Mark Twain made some jabs at Jules Verne’s stories and his source of ideas. It’s not bad, just not edge-of-your-chair material. In fact, you can even put it down in the middle of it and walk away, but there’s not much danger of that. It’s not very long.