Notes that Mark Twain jotted down from a fairy tale he told his daughters more than a century ago have inspired a new children's book, The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine, the AP reports. At the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, there is excitement that the story could help introduce the writer to wider audiences—and provide a financial lift for the nonprofit organization that curates the three-story Gothic Revival mansion where Twain raised his family. A researcher found the story in the archive of the Mark Twain Papers at the University of California at Berkeley. When the University of California Press passed on taking it to publication, the archive's director, Bob Hirst, endorsed enlisting the Twain House as an agent in part because of financial struggles the museum has had to overcome.
"I don't think it's a secret they need funding," Hirst said. "If it was going to make some money, which Mark Twain would certainly approve of, that house was a good place for it to go." The Twain House connected the UC Press with DoubleDay Books for Young Readers, which hired an author and illustrator to turn Twain's unfinished notes into the book to be published in September. The book tells the story of a boy who gains the ability to talk to animals by eating a flower from a magical seed and then joins them to rescue a kidnapped prince. The 152-page illustrated book, completed by Philip and Erin Stead, frames the narrative as a story "told to me by my friend, Mr. Mark Twain." Twain apparently told the story to his daughters in 1879 while the family visited Paris, and one expert says it's exceptional because Twain was not known to write down any of the thousands of stories he told his children. (Read more Mark Twain stories.)