cover image SILENT MOVIE


Avi, , illus. by C.B. Mordan. . Atheneum/ Schwartz, $16.95 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-689-84145-3

Avi and Mordan (Lost! A Story in String) translate the silent screen experience into print with aplomb, from the clever opening "credits" to "The End." The show begins with a flourish on the front cover, as red velvet curtains open to reveal the book's title. Inside, Avi mixes in just the right amount of melodrama as he unspools the tale of a Swedish immigrant family, whose trials begin at the docks in New York Harbor when Papa can't find Mama and young Gustave. The boy and his mother are reduced to begging, they lose their money to a thief and so on. But then plucky young Gustave attracts the attention of a famous movie director. Eventually, Papa sees his son onscreen and tracks his family down for a happy reunion. In true silent movie fashion, this rags-to-riches story unfolds through a series of brief captions, while Mordan's black-and-white ink-on-clayboard illustrations chronicle the action. The sharply defined lines and cross-hatching recall classic woodcuts, and memorable images include a horse and wagon silhouetted against the snow and a huddle of immigrant women working in a sweat shop. The pages are redolent with visual motifs of the era, from the villain's larger-than-life moustache to close-ups that dissolve to black around the subjects like a dark halo. While the vernacular of the silent screen may be foreign to today's readers, this intriguing volume should ignite their interest. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)