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U.S.A. Popcorn Adventure #92
June 03, 2009

Peace like a River

Huck Finn + Going Fishin'

As kids we remember wondering what it would be like to run off on an adventure just like Huckelberry Finn, not having to answer to anyone. Our kids are still too young to read Mark Twain's classic novel on their own, so we thought we'd introduce them to the story by watching the 1993 Disney film version The Adventures of Huck Finn.  The film tells the tale of a precocious boy, Huck, who is sick of the "civilized" world and his abusive father. He meets Jim, an escaped slave, and the pair form an unlikely friendship. We follow Huck and Jim as they journey down the Mississippi River in search of freedom.  Through Elijah Wood's performance as Huck, our kids got an excellent primer on how a good friend can change your perspective on the world. Our modern kids enjoyed their soujourn into the past via this lively adaptation of what many consider to be the greatest American novel of all time, and watching Huck come to terms with racism showed our kids how our country has changed since the book was written. Especially when it comes to the freedom two boys could enjoy at a very young age!

Inspired by the idyllic image of Huck and Jim floating their raft peacefully down the Mississippi, we decided to pack up our rods and head for our local fishing hole. It had been a while since we’d last fished. We’d had many opportunities to fish in open water, so our kids were certainly no strangers to baiting a hook. But we've recently moved to a new city, and hadn't yet checked out what was biting down on the banks of the river.  We got an early start (always a good idea) and found a great spot where we could walk out onto some large rocks and set up camp.  With hooks baited, lines cast and re-cast, searching for the perfect spot, we began to fish. We waited a long time for our nibble, but it was worth it.  Both kids caught at least one fish, while the grown-ups went the entire morning without even a bite. The truth is, we didn’t mind at all. Spending the day on the banks of the river brought out the Huck Finn in all of us.

Film Title: The Adventures of Huck Finn
Directed By: Stephen Sommers
1993, Rated PG, 108 minutes

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this film:

  • Why This Film is Worth It:  Though not entirely true to the racial grittiness of Mark Twain's novel, this film still presents Huck's transformation fully and has fun with the excellent adventures of Huck and Jim on their journey down the great river. The film's performances are fabulous and it's a fair introduction to one of our country's greatest stories. Ideally, one day they'll read the novel itself.
  • Red Flags: As it is a Disney film, the film is pretty family friendly, albeit with a PG rating.  However, the scene where Huck's father threatens to kill him and has a knife may make younger children uneasy.
  • More On Huck: There are more than a dozen film and television adaptations of the novel, as well as a notable stage show, Big River. Many folks are also fond of the 1939 adaptation with Mickey Rooney.

Our tips for talking to your kids about this film:

  • History Savvy: Huck Finn takes place in pre-Civil America and Huck is helping Jim, a runaway slave, escape to freedom. Talk to your children about racism and stereotypes.  Ask them if they feel racism still exists today and why. 
  • Literature Savvy: Mark Twain's novel has a reach into 20th Century literature like no other book, both for it's brilliant exploration of race relations and Twain's ability to tell a story in a natural vernacular. Yet, the book has been banned from many school reading lists and libraries because of it's use of controversial words associated with slavery. That being said, we think it is fine to read to kids - why not have it be your summer reading adventure? Click here to read more and purchase.
  • Friendship Savvy: Huck and Jim have an unlikely friendship. During their journey Huck learns about friendship and what it means to be a good friend. Ask your children what  characteristics they look for in a friend and how they are a good friend to others.


Fishing with Kids

Time Allotment: an hour or two, or as long as the fish are biting!

Age Recommendation: Five and up

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Popcorn Adventure:

  • Before You Go: Get a license. Check the website Take Me Fishing and select your state for rules, and regulations. In many states you may purchase and download a license online.  The website also offers tips and techniques for beginners, ideas for planning your outing, and a Fishopedia to help identify what you'll be fishing for.  Younger kids will enjoy playing the fishing games on the site, too.
  • What Worked for Us: We like to go early- as early as we can, because that's when the fish are biting. Know when to quit. Kids do get bored quickly if they aren't catching. Take a picnic break, or go exploring, then try again.
  • Equipment: You don't need anything fancy. We like lightweight push button style rods. We always bring gloves, a few rags and something to cut the fishing line, just in case it gets tangled up. For your youngest ones, even the small toy-like fishing rods will do. You can pick these up at big box stores in the sporting goods section.
  • Tackle: It's common knowledge that certain fish go after certain types of bait, so it's always good to know what you may catch. However, with that said, we've found that nothing means fishing like a bobber and a worm. Kids get to learn how to work with live bait- and let's face for a lot of kids handling the worms, and checking to see if your worm was bitten is half the fun. If you want to invest a little more, you can find numerous types of lure at most sporting goods stores, let your kids pick out something bright and shiny.  A favorite of ours is the Silver Buddy.
  • Not a Nibble: Just because the fish aren't biting doesn't mean the day is a wash.  Let the kids wade in the stream, throw some rocks, look for other aquatic life or birds.  Spending some time exploring the banks of a river or pond is a great way for kids to connect with nature.
  • A Sure Thing: It's true that the way to instill a love of fishing in kids is to actually have them catch something! When our kids were really young we took them to a small stocked pond. We brought corn to use as bait (because they are farm raised) and the excitement on our kids faces as they reeled in fish after fish was priceless. Just remember to check the policy, most places make you take home (and pay) for whatever you catch.
  • Vacation: Fishing is a great activity because you can find a river, lake or pond almost anywhere.  We usually take our rods with us whenever we go on a trip.  So this summer try using fishing as a way for kids to explore the rivers, streams or ponds of the new places you visit.

Our City Editors' tips for enjoying this Popcorn Adventure around the USA:

  • Anywhere: Google your city + fishing with kids.  Small lakes and ponds in your neighborhood are also a good place to start.
  • Boston: It’s tough to imagine fishing like Huck Finn in Boston, although the Charles River is regularly stocked with shad fish in the hopes of good shore fishing in the near future. Your best bet is to visit the Mass Division of Fishes and Willdlife. Here you will find lots of places to fish while enjoying the well-preserved coastlines of Massachusetts.
  • Houston: Visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife, Houston website Take Me Fishin  it offers a map of over 30 locations to fish, as well as fishing tips, license information and fish stocking reports and links.  Directions to free fishing in local state parks can be found, as well as current area fishing reports. Pick a place and let the reels fly!
  • New York: Remember New York City is surrounded by water, AND New York City waters offer a challange to the salt and freshwater angler. So if your looking to escape the busy city streets for an early morning or afternoon fishing adventure head to a pier, a river  or try one of the lakes or ponds scattered across the parks within the five Boroughs.  In Central Park alone there is the Central Park Lake and the Harlem Meer. All ponds with in NYC parks have "catch  and release" fishing regulations on all species. Check out for a listing of sport fishing by Borough and for more information on regulations. For charter and boat information pick up a copy of The Long Island Fisherman.
  • Washington, D.C.: Good fishing abounds at  The Boathouse at Fletcher's Cove, located at the historic C&O Canal National Park. Only 2 miles north of the Key Bridge, it's the perfect spot for a quick fishing trip.  The concession stand offers bait and tackle, cold drinks and even rowboat rentals.

Want more? Here are KOTC's picks of films, books, music, and websites that connect your family to more culture.

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