Boy of a Thousand Faces - Activities and Ideas
back to book review page
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)
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
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
* 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.
* 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
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
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0151606 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
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.