Avi. (2003). Silent Movie. C. B. Mordan. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Literary Genre: Historical Fiction (Picture Book)
“1909. Goodbye to the Old World! Papa Hans sails for America.” This Swedish father makes the trip to America six months before his wife and son, Gustave. When, Mama and Gustave arrive to New York they have no luck finding Papa. Gustave is seen by a silent movie director, Bunting, and becomes a good actor. Papa, weary from looking for his family, takes a break at the nickelodeon and sees his son on the screen. Gustave becomes the well-paid “wonder boy” of silent movies and his family fulfills the American Dream. The minimal text and black and white framed illustrations mimic the design of a silent movie.
Love this book! I am a huge fan of historical fiction in general, but I am especially fond of immigrant stories. Avi’s ability to transform a picture book into a silent movie is remarkable. The minimal text may hinder children’s ability to follow the plot on their own. However, Mordan’s close-ups of the characters allow the readers to feel the emotions of the characters and allow inferences to be made. Both the author and illustrator include a “note” at the end of the book that shares historical information about the time period, and silent movies. Avi mentions that silent movies were popular among immigrants because there was no language barrier, this is a huge insight that allows young readers to connect with how immigrants felt; which is what makes historical fiction so great. I would definitely recommend this quality book to others.