Can You Name the Artist?
"Humanity is mad!"


Describing the silent-film star's hardscrabble early years, the following is an excerpt from Sir Charlie Chaplin, the Funniest Man in the World, by Sid Fleischman (Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 2010). This is the point in which Chaplin follows his brother's footsteps into acting.

"If Charlie had heard of Faust, who made a pact with the devil to exchange his soul for recaptured youth and other yearnings, the Cockney would have been glad to make the trade. All he yearned for was a change in luck and maybe a kidney pie. The change arrived, anyway, and haggle free."

Sir Charlie Chaplin, the Funniest Man in the World is for ages 9 and up, according to the publisher.

Writing at the publisher's blog, Under the Green Willow, librarian Susan Erickson said, "Sometimes I think [Sid Flesichman] wrote as much for his own enjoyment as for his young readers; his great skill as an author allowed him to do both." For this not-so-young reader, the curlicued writing style distracted me so much from the story that I stopped halfway through.

Sir Charlie Chaplin, the Funniest Man in the World was nominated for a Cybil award in the middle grade/young adult nonfiction category.


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Thank you. Since I'm working on my own Chaplin book I'm totally not objective about Fleischman's book, but the writing style that I loved so much for his Houdini and Twain books did not work for Chaplin at all. At least not for me. The other two are Americana writ large, but Chaplin was British and not a showman in the way Houdini and Twain were. And so the writing still just seemed...wrong here.

Monica, I look forward to your book!

The story and the writing were in competition here, and the reader is left puzzling over too many passages. Several blog reviews have been positive (I looked them up after writing this), but a couple of Goodreads reviews point out the problems with the writing. Interesting.

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