The celebrated jumping frog

Words: 401-500

Skills: Character Traits Context Clues

Grades: 5th 6th 7th

Topics: Humor

Genres: Prose

Lexile Range:

Lexile Measure:

CCSS: Reading: Literature

Themes:

The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County


by Mark Twain

No one could "spin a yarn" like Samuel Clements, aka "Mark Twain." This short story is certainly proof of this. This passage is the opening paragraphs of Twain's famous story. Students will read it and reply to questions on the characters and use context clues to decipher some of the language.

Reading Comprehension Passage

The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County

by Mark Twain
Below is the beginning of  Mark Twain’s short story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” published in 1865. The narrator visits Wheeler in a gold mining camp in California.

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In compliance with the request of a friend of mine, who wrote me from the East, I called on good-natured, garrulous old Simon Wheeler, and inquired after my friend's friend, Leonidas W. Smiley, as requested to do, and I hereunto append the result. I have a lurking suspicion that Leonidas W. Smiley is a myth; that my friend never knew such a personage; and that he only conjectured that, if I asked old Wheeler about him, it would remind him of his infamous Jim Smiley, and he would go to work and bore me nearly to death with some infernal reminiscence of him as long and tedious as it should be useless for me. If that was the design, it certainly succeeded.

I found Simon Wheeler dozing comfortably by the bar-room stove of the old, dilapidated tavern in the ancient mining camp of Angel’s, and I noticed that he was fat and bald-headed, and had an expression of winning gentleness and simplicity upon his tranquil countenance. He roused up and gave me good-day. I told him a friend of mine had commissioned me to make some inquiries about a cherished companion of his boyhood named Leonidas W. Smiley -- Rev. Leonidas W. Smiley -- a young minister of the Gospel, who he had heard was at one time a resident of Angel’s Camp. I added that, if Mr. Wheeler could tell me any thing about this Rev. Leonidas W. Smiley, I would feel under many obligations to him.

Simon Wheeler backed me into a corner and blockaded me there with his chair, and then sat me down and reeled off the monotonous narrative which follows this paragraph. He never smiled, he never frowned, he never changed his voice from the gentle-flowing key to which he tuned the initial sentence, he never betrayed the slightest suspicion of enthusiasm; but all through the interminable narrative there ran a vein of impressive earnestness and sincerity, which showed me plainly that, so far from his imagining that there was any thing ridiculous or funny about his story, he regarded it as a really important matter, and admired its two heroes as men of transcendent genius in finesse. To me, the spectacle of a man drifting serenely along through such a queer yarn without ever smiling, was exquisitely absurd.

Passage Only

Reading Comprehension Questions

1. How does the narrator feel about Simon Wheeler? Use quotations from the text to support your answer.



2.  What does append mean here: "I hereunto append the result"?



3. List five character traits of Simon Wheeler.



4. What does countenance mean here: "an expression of winning gentleness and simplicity upon his tranquil countenance"?