At the time I first fell in love with Chaplin the rest of the world seemed more taken with Buster Keaton. Evidently he was more cerebral (as much as a slapstick comedian can be called that) and at my college there were often screenings of Keaton, never of Chaplin. Now I do like Keaton yet I have had little luck getting my students to connect to him. Once they have fallen for Chaplin, no one else, it seems, will do. (Is my own teen-crush to blame? Possibly.)
At any rate, this year I’m more hopeful because of a remarkable new picture book biography of Buster Keaton. When I read Betsy Bird’s enthusiastic review of Catherine Brighton’s Keep Your Eye On The Kid: The Early Years of Buster Keaton I was eager to see it for myself. Happily, the publisher sent me a copy and it is everything Betsy said and more. The illustrations are amazing with angles and perspectives that echo those of Keaton’s films. Within the illustrations are wonderful references to other illustrated stories such as Little Nemo in Slumberland and Struwwelpeter. It is a spectacular book and I can’t wait to read it to my students, show them One Week, Our Hospitality, The General, and more to get them hooked!
Here is the memorable scene with which Brighton ends her book: