word craft


City of Magic

Anne Schwartz Books, 2003
illus. by C.B. Mordan

out of print; look for this book at your favorite used book­seller or library

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What’s this book about?

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.

Story Behind the Story

When I was a boy my usu­al Sat­ur­day Brook­lyn morn­ings meant movies at the neigh­bor­hood St. George The­atre. Sev­en car­toons. A west­ern. The March of Time news­reel, plus a chap­ter from some mul­ti-part ser­i­al. More­over, you received a gift for actu­al­ly leav­ing the theatre.

For twen­ty-five cents.

For birth­day par­ties my father rent­ed and showed silent 16mm silent movie shorts: Chap­lin, Buster Keaton, Lau­rel & Hardy, among oth­ers. These films had a writ­ten aspect, what were called “titles.” The titles pro­vid­ed dia­logue or nar­ra­tive infor­ma­tion. You had to read them.

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Awards and Recognition

  • ALA Notable
  • Book­list, starred review


“True to the ten­der melo­dra­ma of the great silent movies, this pic­ture book in black-and-white tells a hap­pi­ly-ever-after immi­grant sto­ry from the ear­ly twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry… Clear, beau­ti­ful ink-on-clay­board illus­tra­tions … evoke the his­tor­i­cal peri­od as they tell a sto­ry about mak­ing a movie of the Amer­i­can dream. … Avi and Mor­dan both cite Chap­lin as inspi­ra­tion, and their book beau­ti­ful­ly evokes the melan­choly lon­er in City Lights.” (Book­list)

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