Sid Fleischman wrote some of the most entertaining biographies I’ve read – The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West and Escape!: The Story of the Great Houdini were both highly entertaining, managing to get me interesting in people I didn’t realize I would find fascinating – and he continues in the same vein here with Charlie Chaplin. I know I saw a few Chaplin films as a kid, but I only have a vague memory of them and know Chaplin more for his Little Tramp image than anything else. Fleischman’s style is as entertaining as ever, and Chaplin certainly had a full, messy life that gives plenty of material to a biographer. I thought the strongest points in the book were those covering his childhood and rise to stardom – after that, there was more a sense of the material being edited to suit the audience. While that’s certainly appropriate, I found the material covering his adult life enlivened more by Fleischman’s style than by the details of Chaplin’s life.
I’m always pressing Fleischman’s other biographies on kids who need one for a school project, and I’ll throw this one into the mix, but I still think the Mark Twain bio is the best of the bunch.