Sifting through the Mark Twain Papers and Project at UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library, one scholar struck literary gold, or at least enough raw material to turn into something of value: A set of 16 pages of notes detailing a fairy tale that Twain reportedly told as a story to his daughters one night in Paris in 1879. Twain, the titan of American letters whose picaresque novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn remains his best-known work, was apparently a prolific bedtime storyteller, though this is the only tale he seems to have recorded.
On Friday, publisher Doubleday Books for Young Readers announced it had acquired the story, discovered in 2011, which the AP reports has been adapted into an 11-chapter, 152-page illustrated book by Philip and Erin Stead, the prize-wining children's writer/illustrator duo known for their work A Sick Day for Amos McGee. The Steads will reportedly frame their expansion of the original story as "Told to me by my friend, Mark Twain."
The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine, Twain's tale of a boy who speaks to animals to save a prince, is scheduled for a September 26 release. That date, the Guardian observes, is significant as it marks the 150th anniversary of the first volume Twain published, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Sketches (1867).
“To publish a new Twain story is an incredible literary event," Frances Gilbert, who edited the new book, tells the Guardian. "When I first got the chance to read this unpublished story, I couldn’t believe what I was holding.”
Setting aside the book's merit, I think it's fair to wager that the publisher will make quite the event of its release. Dr. Seuss’s What Pet Should I Get, a slim book posthumously discovered and then published last year, might serve as one example of what to expect: It sold 200,000 copies in just a week in the US, and though it wasn't received as Seuss's best, it was still gobbled up by fans.