Boy of a Thousand Faces - Book Review
Book List --
Selznick, Brian. (2000) The Boy of a Thousand Faces.
New York, NY: Harper Collins. ISBN 0-06-026265-6. Ages
9+; grades 4-8.
Because Alonzo King was born on Halloween, he has
always loved monsters. But no one would ever guess that
he lives in a haunted house with a graveyard out back,
communicates with the dead, turns into a six-armed,
slime-covered creature, or is a walking encyclopedia on
horror films! However, when The Beast arrives, not even
Alonzo can track it down. Will he be able to solve the
mystery of the creature stalking his town and make his
dream of becoming The Boy of a Thousand Faces come true?
Respect for self and others:This
includes integrity (adherence to a code of
conduct or value system), honesty vs. manipulation or
lying, compassion, caring for others (characters not
focused on getting their way no matter what) self
respect--main character does not let others
denigrate him or her; use of self control and
self-discipline ; taking charge of own behaviour;
fairness to others (such as taking turns and
avoiding the blame game). Reader should ask themselves
“How does the protagonist depict their peers?” “Would
you want others to treat you this way? Should everyone
act this way?” This includes true friendships
that do not involve regular lying, deceit or
manipulation; considering consequences of actions
prior to acting; owning up to responsibility once
an action has been taken.
Because of his interests in classic horror flicks, 10
year-old Alonzo doesn’t seem to fit in with his peers.
He has no one with which to share this keen, yet
unusual, interest. Rather than dwelling on this
difference, the author shows us how Alonzo carries on
with his interest. Recognition of one’s strengths and
persistence in following one’s passion is illuminated
well, maintaining an optimistic feel even when Alonzo is
flustered about “The Beast”.
This pursuit of passion pays off as peers recognize
Alonzo as the expert when The Beast surfaces. The book’s
main character demonstrates honest behavior, sincere
self-talk, and respect for self and others.
Portrayal of Authority
figures:The positive portrayal of parents, teachers, police officers and other “good” authority figures common in a child’s life is a positive influence upon the child’s own moral development. This includes
actively-parenting mother and father figures. Minimization of parental involvement in the character’s activities or the portrayal of authority figures as
inferior present poor role models. Also to be avoided are main characters that
deceive parents and teachers to accomplish goals, and overuse
sarcasm towards authority figures. Ask yourself “Are parents seen as positive or negative influence in the character's life?”
The key authority figure is Mr. Blake, neighbor and
postman. He epitomizes the good neighbor-next-door so
often portrayed in entertainment of a bygone era (and
how we should hope to be today). Mr. Blake cares about
Alonzo but also the neighborhood families too. Other
authority figures are briefly portrayed as expected for
this time period and include Alonzo’s mother and school
Patriotism:Loyalty to family, team or group, school, community and world; caring for and being considerate of these
groups. Pride to be part of that group or nationality.
The main character abides by all rules, is productive in
school and responsible at home. At the end, his pride is
based upon a surprise that fills the community with joy.
These then imply pride and joy of inclusion in family,
school and community.
Justice and Balance:A just distribution between good and evil (with
good outweighing evil in the presence of the storyline);
demonstration of right and wrong; making decisions to enact the above values rather than simply choosing from two bad possibilities; Ask yourself “Is the emphasis on the positive elements or negative?”
This book demonstrates good choices. Alonzo could use
his secret to gain popularity with peers or manipulate
adults, but these thoughts never cross his mind. From
the onset, this main character is focused on dispelling
falsehoods and illuminating truths.
Aesthetic aspects Of
life ExperienceLook for a storyline portrayal of
beauty, health, and selfless love vs. hedonistic behaviours (sexuality, selfishness, obsessiveness, materialism),
profanity, gore and violence. Are nature and environment respected or exploited? Look for
dark elements; watch out for humor that is negative, denigrates others excessively, uses metaphors to
denigrate the sacred.
With a focus on innocence and fun, this is yet another
example of how the absence of the vulgar and profane
allow the beauty of a story to emerge. Rather than
emphasize negative peer relations, denigration of
others, profanity or gore, Selznick maintains the high
road and masterfully demonstrates achieving dreams with
self-less behaviour, the artistic beauty of this genre
of classic flicks, and a nostalgic feeling for an
era-gone-by in America.
Other things to
Consider:Other aspects of this book of interest or importance. For example, does it portray Wiccan practices and accurate use of tools of which some parents might object, does it contain
hidden meanings in metaphors that may prove offensive to some families; does it address
personal issues such as puberty or pregnancy.
Some families, for religious or cultural reasons, do not
celebrate Halloween and are not supportive of it. This
story’s main character is born on Halloween and the
story’s finale takes place on Halloween.
Trick-or-treating is mentioned, but otherwise the
holiday itself is not dwelt upon. Rather, the author
keeps to its storyline, and this clean, succinct
approach gives it strength. Halloween becomes almost
coincidental as it merely creates opportunity for the
events that take place.
As a book intended for elementary school, the author
creates characters who address age-appropriate problems
in a positive and productive manner. Excellent book for
the entire family to enjoy!
So what do YOU think? Read our thoughts on the book and join in the discussion
Litland Reviews blog!
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