Sir Charlie: Chaplin, the Funniest Man in the World by Sid Fleischman

sircharlie“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.”

You know, I was feeling uneasy about not reviewing any nonfiction on the blog, friends.  I set out to remedy it, and the first book in the lineup is a biography of Charlie Chaplin.  I’m new to the biography world, and newer still to the world of biographies written for young adults, but this was a great book to start with.  Full of pictures, anecdotes, the storylines and highlights of all of his films, this was a big, lovely book about one of my favorite stars.  Perhaps the best part about it is that it is a book that can be used as a reference for projects and reports, but it is also a pleasant and entertaining read; it definitely doesn’t feel like a dry history.  It’s nice to read the story of another person, especially one as beloved and influential as Mr. Chaplin. If you’re looking to start with some nonfiction, this is a lovely place to begin.

And this post comes with a surprise bonus: some Charlie Chaplin clips!  Happy reading! (And watching!)

His famous speech in The Great Dictator.

Charlie Chaplin receiving an honorary Oscar. (The audience applauds for a year and a half, and it makes him cry and he is so humble and lovely! You’ll love it.)

Charlie and the Eating Machine in Modern Times.

Author’s website:

Fleischman, Sid. Sir Charlie: Chaplin, the Funniest Man in the World.  Greenwillow: New York, 2010. 267 pp. Ages 11-14.

If you liked this book because you’re in love with Charlie Chaplin (like me), then…well, this is it.  This is the only biography of him for youth that I’ve run across!  But the biographer, Sid Fleishchman, wrote many other books on people who are just as interesting.  If you’re looking for Charlie, though-how about a movie marathon?



Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Inside Out

Every new year Mother visits

the I Ching Teller of Fate.

This year he predicts

our lives will twist inside out.

Maybe soldiers will no longer

patrol our neighborhood,

maybe I can jump rope

after dark,

maybe the whistles

that tell Mother

to push us under the bed

will stop screeching…

The war is coming closer to home.

Hà is a ten-year-old who lived in Vietnam with her mother and brothers before the war.  The soldiers took her father, and the bloodshed came closer and closer to their home and they were forced to flee. Saigon has fallen, and Hà and her family escape with thousands of others.  First a dark and smelly boat, then a refugee camp, and finally they have come to settle in Alabama.

Alabama isn’t so easy.  The other children pull her hair, having never seen anyone with such straight dark hair before.  The neighbors don’t want to be friends, either.  Everyone thinks they are too different for the small town.  Hà and her brothers struggle to learn English and fit in.  Their mother says they must not think of anything else, not their father or country or future, until they’ve mastered the language.  She says it’s the only way they will be able to have a happy life in their new home.  Though the adjustment is difficult for them all, they rely on each other, and begin the long process of healing from the wounds of the war.

This double award-winner (Newbery Honor finalist AND the National Book Award recipient) is written in verse, which has the dual benefits of addressing a traumatic subject in a way appropriate for younger audiences, and gives readers a sense of Hà’s struggles to master English.  This is a technique that has been used before in books like this, and works quite well-check out  It seems designed for a classroom read, and could be incorporated into lessons on verse novels, the Vietnam war, or units on cultural sensitivity and bullying.  I love the poem-diary format; it has the advantage of making readers feel like they are super-lightning fast because they can finish this book in a few hours!

This is a haunting introduction to the horrors of war, presented in a manageable format for younger readers-good for the classroom and sure to spark conversations on bullying and diversity.  Perhaps this is not a book that most young people would choose by themselves, for pleasure reading, but it would work well in a school setting.

Happy Reading!

Publisher’s website:

Lai, Thanhha.  Inside Out and Back Again. New York: HarperCollins, 2011.262 pp.  Ages 10-15.

If you liked this book, try Home of the Braveanother verse novel about refugees in the United States!