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by Don Brown & illustrated by Don Brown

Age Range: 6 - 9

Pub Date: March 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-7613-1538-1
Publisher: Roaring Brook

Brown (Far Beyond the Garden Gate, 2002, etc.) moves forthrightly into more words and more detailed images in this picture-book biography of filmmaker Mack Sennett. Brown has more muscle and verve in these pictures than in his beautiful but understated biographies of women; what could be more appropriate for Sennett, who began his career in entertainment by playing the rear half of a horse on stage? From slapstick comedy, he moved to a job with the Biograph movie company on 14th Street in NY City on his 29th birthday in 1909. Sennett did everything from carrying cameras to directing. He wanted to translate the physical comedy of vaudeville to the movies and so he moved to California and founded Keystone Pictures where he made 140 movies his first year. He created the Keystone Kops, filmed the first pie-in-the-face routine, and hired Charlie Chaplin. The quotes in the text come from Sennett himself, and Brown adds a little dog to the corners of the pages, so readers can flip the pages to see the dog move, just like in the movies. Brown distills an amazing amount of information into a true economy of storyline, making this particular bit of movie history accessible for young readers. He uses a limited palette of ochre, browns, and grays to give a vintage look to his winsome images. Pair this with Brown’s Across a Dark and Wild Sea (2002), his biography of the scribe St. Columba, for a remarkable story time about books and movies. (author’s note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-9)