Monday, July 12, 2010

Sir Charlie Chaplin, the Funniest Man in the World

Sir Charlie: Chaplin, the Funniest Man in the World

See him? That little tramp twitching a postage stamp of a mustache, politely lifting his bowler hat, and leaning on a bamboo cane with the confidence of a gentleman? A slapstick comedian, he blazed forth as the brightest movie star in the Hollywood heavens.
Everyone knew Charlie—Charlie Chaplin.

Thanks to the late Sid Fleischman and his book Sir Charlie Chaplin, the Funniest Man in the World a whole new generation will know Charlie as well.

I was thrilled to find this book. I love Charlie Chaplin. So much so that I named my daughter Oona after Charlie's beloved wife. At 19-months, it will be awhile before Oona and I can enjoy this book together (recommended reader age for this bio is 9 - 12 years) but what can a film programmer / mom do? Its a must have for our library.

Fleischman has rich material in Charlie's life; a classic rags to riches story Hollywood-style. Young Charles spent a Dickensian childhood in the slums of London (including a stint in the poor house). He started his career in Victorian music halls before making his way to America and the movies. Once in Hollywood Charlie gave birth to his Little Tramp character and together they charmed movie goers around the world. Sadly Charlie's off-screen life wasn't without troubles and during the McCarthy era Charlie was forced to leave America because of his left wing political leanings.

It is a testament to the respect Fleischman held for his young readers that he doesn't shy away from the more troublesome aspects of Chaplin's life while keeping the focus on the art. The author's obvious love for the subject matter is infectious and sure to engage young readers.

Besides the sheer brilliance of his work there is much to be celebrated in the life of Chaplin. He championed freedom of expression, equality amongst people and basic human decency. For all of these reasons, and many more, this biography is worth the read.

Here's Oona at 4 months old hanging out with Charlie

And here is an old rhyme we sometimes sing:

Charlie Chaplin went to France
to teach the ladies how to dance
he did the rhumba
he did the kicks
he did the samba
then the splits!

Check out reviews of nonfiction children's and YA books from the kidlitosphere at Nonfiction Mondays. Hosted this week by Abby the Librarian.


  1. Hi Erin. This one sounds like it might have potential to tie in with a project I'm working on with elementary school teachers around the big idea of 'legacy'. I'll check this one out.
    Apples With Many Seeds

  2. Hi Tammy,

    Glad to offer up the suggestion. 'Legacy' is a big idea - sounds really interesting. I'm heading over to your blog now.