Dear Language Arts/English Teacher:
In 2005, Dr. Janet Allen, a nationally recognized language arts consultant, recommended that all ninth grade English teachers in South Carolina take a look at Matthew Olshan’s Finn, a much praised and honored book I published in 2001.
“While creating modules of instruction for English I teachers,” Dr. Allen explained, “I discovered Matthew Olshan's Finn. I immediately included this novel as the core text for our Journeys unit. Olshan's Finn will draw readers into Chloe's journey in such an engaging way that students will be able to make many comparisons not only to Huck Finn's legendary journey in Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but also to other historical and personal journeys. In addition, Finn’s episodic style will capture reluctant readers in ways that foster further independent reading. Whether teachers are teaching their students about a classic hero's journey or looking for a good book that will enrich their students' reading lives, Finn: a Novel will serve them well.”
About two years later, Dr. Allen made Finn a core book (and audio) in the ninth-grade English curriculum fora new, national “Plugged into Reading” program available through Recorded Books of America.
Dr. Allen was not the first to come up with the idea. As you’ll see from the enclosed “Finn as Companion to Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” (Ms.) Leslie Goetsch, the English Department chairwoman at Roland Park Country School in my hometown of Baltimore, began to teach the two books together several years ago. Her verdict? “Teaching Finn alongside The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn brings a new relevance to Twain’s important and much-taught work. As a teacher in a girls’ school, I can attest to the powerful connection Finn readers, especially girls, make with Finn, the novel’s protagonist. This connection allows for a significant appreciation of the issues and conflicts both novels bring to light. Finn is much more than a complement to Twain’s enduring classic. It gives it contemporary punch and appeal.”
Rachel Eisler, the English Department chairwoman at the Bryn Mawr School, also in Baltimore, had previously made a similar recommendation. "Finn,” she wrote, “is a smart, provocative re-imagining of Twain's novel, catapulted into contemporary culture. Paired with the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, it will make for powerful classroom discussions about values, class, literary influence, and stereotypes."
Virtually every publication that reviewed Finn, including the ALAN Review (a publication of The National Council of Teachers of English), Booklist, VOYA, Kliatt, and the Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, reached a similar conclusion—one, I believe, whose time has come.
So, if you just click on a button and send me an email with your name and school mailing address, I will send you a review copy of the book, along with this simple suggestion:Read the book andmake up your own mind about the advantages of having Finn and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn read together (or separately).
The cost is small—just $7.47 for the paperback ($14.95 SRP).
As it is, the average 14 or 15-year-old American kid, male or female, is likely to dismiss Huck Finn with words like: “We haven’t had slavery in this country for more than 140 years, and our country is so different from when Huck Finn takes place. Why bother reading the book today?” Olshan’s Finn answers that common complaint. He substitutes now for the 1840’s, a girl (Chloe Wilder) for Huck Finn, and immigration abuses for slavery.
As suggested by Dr. Allen and so many other respected educators, reading Finn alongside Huckleberry Finn will enable American kids to see for themselves the enduring, contemporary relevance of Twain’s classic. They’ll recognize that prejudice is still alive in our country. They’ll discuss why. And they may well develop their own ideas on what to do about it.
A final observation: So many of our teenagers today are reluctant readers. Dr. Gary Packard, a nationally known reading professor at Northeastern University in Chicago, has been using Finn with his remedial college classes for nearly a decade now. Many of his students are African-American or Hispanic. One such student even admitted that Finn was the first book he’d ever read cover-to-cover (he loved it, incidentally).
As for Packard himself, he said: “Because of Finn’s very high interest level, and its easily manageable skill level, young adults should be transfixed by Chloe's ‘been there,’ often funny and relevant narrative. Olshan keeps the action interesting without resorting to heavy-handedness and, despite its sobering message, his Finn is compellingly entertaining throughout.”
Finn can be purchased from numerous library and educational wholesalers. But if your school district deals directly with my company, in business since 1988, I’ll offer you far more advantageous discounts (50 percent vs. 25-30%) plus free freight. If you order or re-order from Bancroft Press, you’ll save thousands.
So, here’s a proven, innovative idea to keep kids from turning off from reading generally, and from reading Huck Finn in particular. Because of your open-mindedness and entrepreneurial spirit, many of your English students may end up understanding, appreciating, learning from, and remembering Huck Finn far better for many years to come.
For everyone’s sake, please consider the idea today.
Bruce L. Bortz
P.S. I’ve attached other relevant praise for Finn.
Finn As Companion to Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
“While creating modules of instruction for English I teachers, I discovered Matthew Olshan's Finn. I immediately included this novel as the core text for our Journeys unit. Olshan's Finn will draw readers into Chloe's journey in such an engaging way that students will be able to make many comparisons not only to Huck Finn's legendary journey in Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but also to other historical and personal journeys. In addition, Finn’s episodic style will capture reluctant readers in ways that foster further independent reading. Whether teachers are teaching their students about a classic hero's journey or looking for a good book that will enrich their students' reading lives, Finn: A Novel will serve them well.”
--Dr. Janet Allen, Allen Educational Consulting
“This story is a clever, affectionate homage to Mark Twain. Like Huckleberry Finn, Chloe is awakened to injustice and hypocrisy, but also finds hope in good-hearted people, and their ability to connect with others. Students familiar with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn will appreciate the many parallels this novel has to the classic… The spirited, resourceful, observant, and witty Chloe is a heroine who will keep readers engaged and interested.”
--ALAN Review, A Publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)
"Finn is a smart, provocative re-imagining of Twain's novel, catapulted into contemporary culture. Paired with the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, it will make for powerful classroom discussions about values, class, literary influence, and stereotypes."
-- Rachel Eisler, former English Department chairwoman, Bryn Mawr School (Baltimore, MD)
“Set in a thoroughly modern context, this inventive, affectionate homage to Mark Twain’s classic about Huck Finn clearly illustrates that prejudice still affects human understanding, behavior, and language… Teens who have read Twain’s book will appreciate Olshan’s direct references and parallels; those who haven’t will like the action and the heroine’s resourcefulness. The book’s satire and cynicism may create controversy and strike some readers as harsh, but the novel effectively raises awareness of contemporary social concerns, and, like the classic, is certain to invite both thought and discussion.”
-- Booklist, Starred Review
“Teaching Finn alongside The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn brings a new relevance to Twain’s important and much-taught work. As a teacher in a girls’ school, I can attest to the powerful connection Finn readers, especially girls, make with Finn, the novel’s protagonist. This connection allows for a significant appreciation of the issues and conflicts both novels bring to light. Finn is much more than a complement to Twain’s enduring classic. It gives it contemporary punch and appeal.”
-- Leslie Goetsch, chair, English Department, Roland Park Country School (Upper Division), who teaches Finn as a companion to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
“I teach American Literature, and am using my copy of Finn this summer to devise lesson plans to teach it as an alternative to Huckleberry Finn. I’m impressed with all the allusions, imagery, and other literary devices used to make this a quality book for teens. My instructional manager is authorizing a purchase of 30 copies to be used as a pilot this year, with possible curriculum adoption next year.”
--Carole Francis, Parker High School, Janesville, WI
“This book begs to be read and discussed.”
-- Deborah Taylor, former president of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) of the American Library Association (1996-97); Coordinator of School and Student Services for the Enoch Pratt Free Library (Baltimore, MD); chair of the ALA Coretta Scott King Award jury (2000); and adjunct professor at the University of Maryland College of Library and Information Services
“In Finn, Matt Olshan has produced a wonderfully entertaining, suspenseful, and thought-provoking parallel to Mark Twain's classic novel. Olshan’s debut fiction succeeds as both a lively coming-of-age tale and a critical examination of contemporary American social values. It’ll be very appealing to teenage as well as adult readers.”
--Paul Barrett, Academic Dean, St. Albans School for Boys (Washington, DC)
“An excellent companion to Twain’s classic.”
--Librarian, Lovett School (Atlanta, GA)
“In Matthew Olshan’s lively and captivating novel … Huckleberry Finn’s creative and mischievous spirit soars in protagonist Chloe Wilder, who follows her own wild adventure in the tradition of one of Mark Twain’s most memorable characters. … In Finn, a contemporary version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Chloe is a daring, crafty survivor—one who will especially appeal to girls who want their own gutsy heroines to follow. Mark Twain should be proud.”
--Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy
“An engaging yet controversial modern retelling of Mark Twain's classic Huckleberry Finn, this recent selection of the Teen People Book Club features a teenage girl and pregnant Latina as protagonists, and clearly illustrates that prejudice still affects human understanding, behavior, and language.”
--Howard County (MD) Public Library System
"Like Twain's Huckleberry Finn, Olshan's Finn: a novel is both a thrilling story and a social document."
--Jesse Norman, founder and board chairman of Widelearning, a London-based e-learning company
“A multi-layered tale and a good story that echoes The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
--BookPeople Bookstore, Austin, TX
“This clever, lively novel for teenagers is a retelling of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, with girls—a pregnant Mexican maid and a tomboyish, private-school narrator—as protagonists and illegal immigration, rather than slavery, at the moral heart of the matter.”
“…[T]elling the story from Chloe’s perspective makes the improbable seem plausible. Vivid descriptions and realistic details involve the reader. Chloe and Silvia are counterparts of Twain’s Huck and Jim, and their adventures echo those of their fictional predecessors. Young readers will admire Chloe, who overcomes adversity and is clever, perceptive, and vulnerable. Her story is funny, pathetic, and engrossing.”
--Voya (Voice of Youth Advocates)
“Feisty teenage Chloe is fearless and resourceful but believably naïve in some respects. When she returns to her grandparents from her adventures, she does so with new perspectives on camaraderie, racism, and the underbelly of America’s cities… For those unfamiliar with Twain, this first novel will work as an adventure story. Readers who know The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn might enjoy searching out the parallels and differences … A novel to ponder and discuss.”
“Stereotypes of ethnic, religious, and racial groups abound; some fit in the context of Chloe’s observations of her surroundings, while others are left for readers to ponder ... The book is written in short chapters that will appeal to reluctant readers … Chloe is a spirited, resourceful, observant, and humorous heroine who will keep readers interested until the end, when things are wrapped up neatly, but believably.”
--School Library Journal
"Masterfully written and skillfully paced, Finn tells a Huckleberry Finn story for our time, a picaresque adventure which will engage and enlighten teenage readers. The protagonist is a teenage girl whose sense of moral responsibility and social injustice leads her to confront disquieting aspects of American society. Girls will respond to Chloe Wilder's courage and clear-sightedness. Matthew Olshan has given them a heroine to emulate."
--Eleanor W. Kingsbury, former Head of Springside School (Philadelphia, PA) and of the Bermuda High School for Girls
“Olshan keeps the action interesting without resorting to heavy-handedness. And, despite its sobering message, his Finn is compellingly entertaining throughout.”
--Gary Packard, professor of Reading at Northeastern University in Chicago and head of the Teachers' Reading Resource, who uses noteworthy books of YA fiction, including Finn, worthy of teaching in the classroom to college students requiring remedial help in reading
“If you have read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, you'll notice many similarities. Even if you haven't read it, you're in for a story with plenty to grab your attention.”
--Brandon Drake, student at Hot Springs County HS, Thermopolis, WY, reviewing the book for Topics Magazine and recommending it for summer reading
"Rollicking but literary, Matthew Olshan’s Finn is a beautifully crafted and remarkably absorbing story about strength and ingenuity. Overflowing with hilarious turns of phrase, essential observations, and lovely metaphors, it’s a remarkably clear tale of economic disparity and emotional endurance. Narrated tautly by young Chloe Wilder (aka Finn), a teenager endowed with innate strength and enormous resourcefulness, Finn reads like a supreme adventure."
--Jonathon Scott Fuqua, author of the award-winning novels "The Reappearance of Sam Webber," “Darby,” and “Willougby Spit”
"Even though I read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn some time ago, I think Matthew Olshan's idea of a modern Huck Finn is brilliant, and I can clearly see its connection to Twain's original work."
--Adam Bulkley, Towson, MD, and 12 at the time of reading Finn
"A redo of Huckleberry Finn would be a tall order for anybody, but there are flashes of brilliance in Matthew Olshan's attempt, and the voice of his heroine (for better or worse) is as true to our time as Huck's was to his."
--Madison Smartt Bell, director, Goucher College creative writing program; and author of 10 novels (his eighth novel, All Souls Rising, was a finalist for the 1995 National Book Award and the 1996 PEN/Faulkner Award and winner of the 1996 Anisfield-Wolf award for the best book of the year dealing with matters of race)
“Like most of my friends, I love reading books about girls my age. They’re just easier to relate to. But to say I related to Chloe Wilder in Finn is an understatement. I felt like I personally experienced her experiences, lived her adventures, and survived her hardships right along with her. What I also really liked about this really good book was how Chloe’s sidekick, Silvia Morales, made me think. On a recent family vacation in San Diego, I saw first-hand that many recent immigrants are living and working in the U.S., and that some Americans put down, discourage, and ridicule them, whether or not they are citizens, and especially if they speak Spanish. Even Chloe acted in a racist way towards Silvia in the beginning of the book, but she came to realize what kids my age don’t know or sometimes forget – people are people, regardless of their country of origin.”
--Julie Ann Taylor, Pikesville, MD, and 12 at the time of reading FINN
"If you’re a modern feminist who enjoys classics, you'll love this spunky girl version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It gives you everything the original book gave you, and so much more."
--Chana Lapine (13), Houston, TX
“I was intrigued by the idea behind Finn as soon as I heard about it, and was anxious to find out the adventures Matthew Olshan's female Huck would experience. Chloe Wilder turns out to be quite a real and wonderful character. She pays attention to her world, tries to make sense of it, and wants to make it a better place. She thinks a great deal about everything, which is so typical of a teenage girl! And despite all the instability in her life, she has a certain sense of who she is, and her insistence on sticking to her beliefs throughout the story demonstrates her strength. I’m confident our magazine’s readers will relate to her, be entertained by her adventures, and be challenged by her ideas. I myself didn't want to put the book down!”
--Ellen L. Runnels, Associate Editor,Topics Magazine, which connects students to the world by providing teachers with affordable, time-saving, and engaging learning tools
“In Matthew Olshan's Finn, the author doesn't so much update Mark Twain's classic, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, as use it as a device to avoid the PC police. It's a brilliant move, really, because it saves him from a trap that often plagues writers of teen books, i.e., how do you make good, nice, wholesome people interesting … Although the book is geared towards older teenagers, its brisk plotting and trendy subject matter make it a quick and enjoyable read for just about anyone… Finn is a wonderful hero, and a fully modern one… In keeping with the tradition of the original, the pair journey through a fantastical slice of American life where danger and excitement abound.”
“… Author Matthew Olshan cannot upgrade The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but has modernized the story, which he has made over into a tale of inner city homelessness and teen survival that parallels Twain’s masterpiece. Teens will like how Chloe, a sassy, angry teen, cleverly uses her wits to save herself and also take care of Silvia, her grandparents’ Mexican maid.”
--Warren-Trumbull County (Ohio) Public Library, which designated “Finn” A “Recommended Read for Teens”
“A fantastic young adult novel that is sure to intrigue teens with its adventures and funny yet wise main character… It deals with the issue of prejudice that's rarely in-your-face, but constantly boils under the surface. Like Twain, who dealt with racism toward African Americans, author Matthew Olshan concentrates on smashing stereotypes of Mexican immigrants.”
“Author Matthew Olshan accomplishes quite a task. He blends social commentary into an interesting adventure story that never preaches, only entertains.”
--Harriet Klausner, Amazon’s #1 volunteer reviewer, giving Finn 5 stars
Finn has earned a number of prestigious honors and distinctions:
- Part of ninth grade core English curriculum for Dr. Janet Allen’s and Recorded Books of America’s “Plugged into Reading” program since September 2006
- Approved for ninth grade English use statewide by the South Carolina Department of Education (2004)
- Named one of “LA’s Best 100 Books for 2001” by the Los Angeles Unified School District
- Selected “Best Children’s Book of 2001,” by Plymouth Library, Plymouth, MI
- Voted “Book of the Month,” by Lake Mills, Wisconsin Library
- Placed on Summer Reading List by Lovett School, Atlanta, GA
TITLE: Finn: a novel
AUTHOR'S NAME: Matthew Olshan
PUBLISHER: Bancroft Press
PUBLISHER PHONE & FAX NUMBERS: 410-358-0658 and 410-764-1967 (fax)
PUBLICATION DATE: March 2001
NUMBER OF PAGES: 180
SUBJECTS/TOPICS OF BOOK (MAXIMUM 5): juvenile fiction/ literature and fiction/ prejudice and racism/ Hispanic and Latino/ multicultural stories and issues
LEXILE® ANALYSIS: 860
ACCELERATED READER RATINGS: 5.8 (Level); 9.0 (Points)
Contact: Bruce L. Bortz, Publisher, 800-637-7377, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.bancroftpress.com
Finn: a Novel
by Matthew Olshan
$19.95 (hardcover), $14.95 (paperback),
audio cassette ($29.95)
Finn: a Novel is a modern retelling of Twain's
classic, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,"
but with two female teens as the protagonists. Based
on all the reaction - from Booklist (starred review),
to Book of the Month Club (featured selection), to C-Span
(two taped and aired author appearances), to featured
front page attention on Ingram Library's newsletter
to all YA librarians - we think this YA novel does something
quite rare:combine high intellectual content with
high entertainment value! >>Read
What people are saying about Finn:
a Novel or about Finn:
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