10.16.2011

Cinematic City: Silent Movie

Avi, the author of Silent Movie, is better known for his chapter books (such as the Poppy series), but perhaps the illustrator, C. B. Mordan, should be billed as a co-author, because like silent movies, the story here is told as much through the pictures as it is through the words.

The story begins in 1909, when a Swedish man arrives in New York. But Six months later, when his wife and son arrive he cannot find them at the dock. Mother and son scrape by and when the boy recognizes a theif who had robbed them earlier, he in turn is "discovered' by a famous movie director. The boy, Gustav, becomes a movie actor and is spotted by his father on the screen and the family is reunited.

This book is lovely in the way it captures the spirit of early movie dialogue and storytelling through emotional gesture and light. The story is conveyed through a series of black and white "stills" and the text is kept simple. You can easily imagine it as being on the screen. Silent Movie also accurately reflects one version of the American Myth of immigration: that things might be hard at first, but in America you will become rich and famous -- easily!  Of course this is not true, but it was (and is) the stuff that movies are made of, and is also unique to stories (melodramas!) about America. Avi and Mordan have created an interesting and beautiful book. There is also a good historical note at the end of the book which is worth reading, but I was surprised it didn't touch on New York City's role in early film history.

Want More?
Visit the author's website or the illustrator's website.
Read about Vitagraph Studios, one of NYC's movie studios, which produced silent movies.

1 comment:

Raising a Happy Child said...

I wonder if modern children are even able to comprehend a "silent movie" idea. I remember watching Charlie Chaplin movies when I was a child, but it was way back when and where :)

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