A hymn to boyhood: I can think of no better way sum up Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Written in 1876, this is one of those rare books that does not date. The author has created a brilliant portrayal of boys, their approach to the world, the way they think and their priorities. The book is written in such a sparkling, light, humorous way that it reads as freshly today as it ever did.So, who is Tom Sawyer. Whilst Mark Twain has created a very real character, the book works because Tom is a composite containing aspects of every boy you have ever met. He is lazy; he is disorganised; he would rather do anything than sit in school, learning; he engages in an eternal round of swapping trinkets with his friends. Tom Sawyer is a double-edged sword. His spontaneity causes him to be in constant trouble, but it also a spontaneity fuelled by a joy of life. He may hate dusty, old books, but he has boundless affection for people. He may get into fights, but he also has a passionate loyalty to his friends. Tom Sawyer is such a wonderful creation that I could happily read about his day-to-day activities without need of a plot.Despite the dominance of Tom, himself, and the picaresque picture of the village and characters among whom he lives, there is a plot. The plot itself is as traditional as it possible to get. All those spoofs of children’s story – the children overhearing the villains discussing buried treasure etc – are here. However, although the plot is, to modern eyes, archaic and the coincidences and unlikelihoods upon which the plot is based seem too contrived, this shouldn’t put anyone off reading Tom Sawyer. It is the sheer ffirmation of life and portrayal of boyhood which make this novel a timeless classic.