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For Readers Age 9 - 12
Grades 4th - 8th

The Boy of a Thousand Faces - Activities and Ideas
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Selznick, Brian. (2000) The Boy of a Thousand Faces. New York, NY: Harper Collins. ISBN 0-06-026265-6. Ages 9+; grades 4-8.

Brian Selznick’s book, the Invention of Hugo Cabret, introduced its readers to the world of silent pictures. Moving into what was then known as “talkies”, Selznick introduces us to classic horror films once enjoyed by our parents and grandparents.

If you are unfamiliar with these flicks, they tend to follow a predictable pattern of good over evil, with good winning. Usually taking place in a town or village, residents sometimes get worked up into angry mobs and go after the villain or beast. Or they find other ways to destroy evil. Women scream, villains overact, and the melodrama can make it fun.

Thus we have another opportunity to investigate American pop culture as a means to better understand this story’s main character. . Consider watching one or two movies with the family. Movies mentioned that are classic and fun for the family (might be scary for young children) include:

  • Frankenstein,

  • Dracula,

  • The Wolf Man,

  • The Bride of Frankenstein,

  • The Incredible Shrinking Man, and

  • The Phantom of the Opera.

Many of these have been remade by Hollywood but it is the original, black-and-white movies from the 1920’s-1940’s that set the tone for this book (often the modern remakes are inappropriate as family entertainment).

Attack of the Fifty Foot woman is mentioned but families should determine together whether to view it based on its plotline (an abused wife grows into a scantily-clad giant and hunts down her cheating husband). Classic 1950’s crass film that is a different style and era from the other films mentioned in this book. As such, it portrays content more liberally that may not adhere to your value system.

You might also watch the recent movie Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit , which is a fun and funny parody of these films, By comparison and contrast, children can learn the qualities of a parody as well as discuss cultural norms of the era portrayed in the film and how those differ from today.

If you have read the book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, also authored by Brian Selznick, you might want to rent the silent movie version of The Phantom of the Opera, and study the two pieces of fiction together. This is especially appropriate for middle school aged children grades 5-8. Thus a homeschooling family can enjoy the two books and movies together, but take on different projects depending upon their age and grade of study.

* A 9 year old may be tasked with making a collage of the story coupled with writing a brief summary.

* A 10 year old may write a one-page book report explaining which he liked better (book or movie, or both) and why

* 11-13 year olds can write a report comparing and contrasting the movies to the book, demonstrating knowledge of styles of writing such as parodies vs. stories

* Teens or advanced children can add to this the discussion of the culture and societal attitude portrayed in the films, question the place of film in society during that era, or embark in investigating the stylistic components of the book and film.

In any event, a book such as this can be enjoyed by children in fourth through eight grades, while also providing material for homeschool study well into the teen years.

Perhaps your children or students would enjoy learning more about the character around whom the story is based! Lon Chaney, the man of a thousand faces, died in 1930 at the young age of 47. You can read much more about him at and see for yourself why he was given this title! When did the post office release a stamp of him? Have you ever considered stamp collecting? What else can be found about this mysterious man?

Two myths that enchanted Alonzo were the Loch Ness Monster and Big Foot, with classic pictures of each included in the book. Research these myths online, in the library and possibly find documentaries to watch too. Could they really exist? You may find some science experiments to relate to these myths to determine if they are scientifically possible.

Finally, Alonzo was also interested in The Lost City of Atlantis, for which many books and documentaries also exist. Check into it and make it an adventure.

(For more suggested reading, visit our bookstore.)




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