Some of us fell in love with Mark Twain the first time we read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and some of us understood his genius much later on, when we were finally old enough to appreciate his humor and satiric commentary on humanity. Twain’s polished use of irony is ever-present throughout the brief book, Advice to Little Girls, re-published this year with beautiful, and equally provocative, illustrations by Vladimir Radunsky. I loved it immediately.

Whether or not Twain intended this book to fall into the hands of sweet little girls, we’ll never know. And I’m undecided about sharing it with Maggie. Of course, I want to raise a creative, independent thinking, strong daughter, but somehow I think Twain’s “advice” might give her more ideas than she is (and I am) ready for. She’s already managed to exhaust me with her picky eating habits, her refusal to brush her hair, ever, and her snail’s pace at doing just about anything I ask of her.


“If your mother tells you to do a thing, it is wrong to reply that you won’t. It is better and more becoming to intimate that you will do as she bids you, and then afterward act quietly in the matter according to the dictates of your best judgment.”

See what I mean?


“Good little girls ought not to make mouths at their teachers for every trifling offense. This retaliation should only be resorted to under peculiarly aggravated circumstances.”

Clearly Twain is exercising his sharp wit, but there are truths to be found in his “advice.” While I believe in taking the high road, there is at times, the occasion to mirror another’s behavior. Right?


“Good little girls always show marked deference for the aged. You ought never to ’sass’ old people unless they ’sass’ you first.”

As much as I’d like to brag about how smart my daughter is, her first grade vocabulary isn’t quite up to Advice to Little Girls. Maybe I’ll get a few more years of deferent behavior from my child?



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Click to read 3 comments
  1. Susan

    I have my own sweet little girl who is also strong willed. She loves to hug me, do little things for me, make me jewelry (she is 9), take care of me when I am sick (just getting over the flu that I caught from sleeping with her while she had a high fever), but….she pretends I am not there when she is reading a book or I ask her to do something, she cries with great drama “why do I have to help, I didn’t…make that mess, eat that, those are not mine…”, she scratches her big brother like a cat, she still occasionally draws on the wall, she sneaks chocolate and dessert out of the fridge all the while declaring “why are you accusing me? I didn’t eat it” all the while there are chocolate smears across her face, “why can’t I wear leggings and a belly shirt to school, everyone else does”. Oh boy, she is only 9, what happens when we get to 14? Thank heaven for little girls!

  2. Jeanetta

    I would love to read this but not ever sure I’d want to recommend it to my 13 year old. Lord knows I don’t need anymore reason for her not to listen. Haha. Maybe if I present it as a work of fiction 🙂

  3. Moushka

    As always in life, timing is everything. Are you ready for a philosophical discussion with Maggie about why Twain’s “advice” should not be taken literally? If not, there’s no reason to share the book with her. OTH, if you’ve done as good a job of raising her as I’m sure you have, put it in your library and wait for her questions. She will find her own way of separating herself from you when the right time comes.

    The Jesuits say, “Give me the child until [s/]he is seven, and I will give you the [wo/]man.” All the years count, but the early years count the most. One book will not ruin Maggie’s character or destroy your influence over her. Happy Mother’s Day to you both and thanks for sharing.