Silent Movie


Black-and-white images follow one after another.
The story of an immigrant family alone in a big city.
Close-ups of a mother, a son — faces filled with heartache and joy.
Plenty of action.
A Silent Movie.

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Black-and-white images follow one after another.
The story of an immigrant family alone in a big city.
Close-ups of a mother, a son — faces filled with heartache and joy.
Plenty of action.
A Silent Movie.

In the early years of the twentieth century, a Swedish family encounters separation and other hardships upon immigrating to New York City until the son is cast in a silent movie, in a picture book that evokes an actual silent movie.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
In Silent Movie, he approximates a two-hanky one-reeler about an immigrant family's travails and triumph, aided by C. B. Mordan's exceptional black-and-white ink-on-clayboard panel illustrations, which fit somewhere between woodcuts and a comic book. — Abby McGanney Nolan
Publishers Weekly
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.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4-After immigrating to New York City in 1909, the members of a Swedish family inadvertently become separated, until young Gustave wins a role in a silent film and they are joyfully reunited. The action of this rags-to-riches melodrama unfolds frame by frame in the glossy black-and-white artwork. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An ambitious and largely successful attempt to capture the magic of silent movies in picture-book format. Glossy, black-and-white ink drawings are boxed and surrounded by solid black space to create the feeling of film screens in a darkened theater, and the text's brevity evokes silent movie captions: "Crowded-for three long weeks," or "A little money at last." The story is of a Swedish family's immigration to New York in 1909; at first, details are realistic: the ship is crowded, family members have difficulty finding each other in the big city, and money and food are scarce. However, events soon take a dramatic turn when young Gustave is discovered by a famous movie director and chosen as the newest child star. His inability to speak English doesn't matter because the movies are silent, and by the end he is earning the enormous sum of $100 per week. Gustave's new career also reunites the family: Papa, who couldn't locate his wife and son when their ship docked, sees Gustave on screen and comes running to the studio. Large pictures show dramatic moments while smaller sequential ones show speed and action. At the end, Mama, Papa, and Gustave pose in expensive clothing over the caption "The new American family," romanticizing the immigrant experience. Arresting illustrations and, except for the extreme financial success at the end that is atypical of silent movie endings, a compelling homage to a beloved art form. (author note, illustrator note) (Picture book. 4-7)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689841453
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 3/1/2003
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 1,474,629
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 11.20 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author


Avi is the author of more than fifty books for children and young adults, including the 2003 Newbery medal winner Crispin: The Cross of Lead. He has won two Newbery Honors and many other awards for his fiction. He lives with his family in Denver, Colorado. Visit him at

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    1. Also Known As:
      Avi Wortis (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 23, 1937
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      University of Wisconsin; M.A. in Library Science from Columbia University, 1964
    2. Website:

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