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The Boy of a Thousand Faces


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About the Author

Brian Selznick is the illustrator of many books for children, among them the Caldecott Honor book The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins, as well as his own The Boy of a Thousand Faces and The Houdini Box. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.


Selznick's (The Houdini Box) offbeat tale introduces Alonzo King, a boy who has a Halloween birthday, an imagination on overdrive and an obsessive love of monsters. The 10-year-old's heroes are Mr. Shadows, the host of a late-night TV show that airs classic horror movies, and Lon Chaney, "an incredible actor... who was called `The Man of a Thousand Faces.'" Alonzo's goal is to be "The Boy of a Thousand Faces" and to that end he spends a good deal of time transforming his face with paint, makeup and tape so as to mimic some of the spooky countenances he has viewed in frightening flicks. As Halloween approaches, stories circulate about The Beast, an elusive monster that is allegedly stalking the town, and Alonzo becomes a self-described "expert" on the creature. Given the dramatic buildup concerning The Beast, kids are likely to be disappointed with the story's anticlimactic resolution. Interspersed with several photos and film stills, Selznick's closely focused, black-and-white illustrations are more impressive than his narrative. Characteristically detailed and moodily lit, at their best they approximate the pleasurable melodramas of the scary movies Alonzo so enjoys. Ages 10-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Gr 2-5-Selznick has his finger on the pulse of kids and what they love. Alonzo, almost 11 and obsessed with horror movies, faithfully watches Monsters at Midnight on Channel 37, which broadcasts such reruns as Frankenstein, Dracula, and Phantom of the Opera, hosted by Mr. Shadows, who has become the boy's idol. The young protagonist secretly makes up his face to capture the look of some of the scariest of these fictional monsters, and keeps a Polaroid snapshot of each of his creations. His goal is to create 1000 different visages, inspired by the legendary Lon Chaney, "The Man of a Thousand Faces." Without giving away the very soul of the story, suffice it to say that the boy finds out the surprising true identity of Mr. Shadows and has a thrilling Halloween. Selznick's realistic pencil drawings of close-up faces, from Alonzo's extraordinary made-up monsters to the kindly Mr. Shadows, are expressive and suit the story's mood. This suspenseful book is a fine read-aloud and an excellent choice for reluctant readers.-Barbara Buckley, Rock- ville Centre Public Library, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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