The wonderful Elizabeth Bird over at Fuse #8 has a review up of a picture book biography of Buster Keaton. That phrase "a picture book biography of Buster Keaton" makes my mind race off in two directions at once:
"What a strange thing to do."
"Why didn't I think of that."
Here's a little taste of the review (available here):
"If I were to condemn an author I knew to a life of unending woe and sorrow, I would probably tell them that they could only write faithful picture book biographies of complex people for the rest of their days. Not everyone can do it, you know. It’s an art. Somehow, you have to synthesize a person’s entire LIFE into 32 pages. On top of that, you have to be honest and not fudge the facts, while at the same time keeping your book kid-friendly and appropriate. And what if, like Buster Keaton, your hero had a lousy childhood? What then? Well take a couple tips from Catherine Brighton here. First of all, she was smart enough to limit her scope to “The Early Years of Buster Keaton”. Now Keaton didn’t have the happiest of childhoods, but Brighton doesn’t skirt the issue. She tells this story in the first person, Keaton’s point of view, with simple sentences. The book doesn’t say that his father was a bad person, but at the same time adult readers will note that this was a dad who threw his son across a stage regularly and kept the family moving so that they could avoid child-labor laws. Some might accuse the novel of approaching this history without enough emotion, but like Keaton’s deadpan stage face, it doesn’t take much to delve beneath the surface and get a true feeling for Keaton’s wants and needs."