Smile: How Young Charlie Chaplin Taught the World to Laugh (and Cry)

illus. by Ed Young. 48p. bibliog. idfilmog. further reading. notes. Candlewick. Mar. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763697617.
Gr 1–5—The duo that illuminated musicians Bird and Diz present the backstory of an internationally acclaimed silent film star, director, and composer. Golio has wisely selected moments from Chaplin's 19th-century London childhood that are laden with sensory components or emotional connections: "Laughing children with colored balloons / A flower seller with his jingly cart and horse…." Scaffolding the heights and depths of life with an absent actor father and a musical mother whose illness led to the poorhouse, the author traces experiences Charlie and his brother absorbed before becoming vaudevillians themselves (the book concludes before adult complexities arise). Throughout pratfalls with troupes in England and America, the siblings and their audiences discerned that "Laughter and Tears were brothers, too." Young's inventive, mixed-media collages play with this duality by balancing subdued scenes with bursts of joyous color. The penultimate spread depicts the tramp costume, freshly fashioned for cinema, stretching diagonally across the gutter—a brown shadow emerging from a patchwork canopy snipped from previous scenes. It echoes the burlap crowd from Chaplin's earliest street dances and prepares readers for the final iconic photograph. Thoughtful design presents the blank verse rendered in white on black—or the reverse—paying homage to the subject's filmmaking, as does the tramp silhouette on the base of each recto that animates when flipped.
VERDICT Adults will appreciate the informative and creative approach, as well as the afterword, bibliography, and textual nod to the titular lyrics. Children will cheer for the class clown's success.

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