Book Report: “Smile: How Young Charlie Chaplin Taught the World to Laugh (and Cry)” by Gary Golio

We have a book! Better still, we have a picture book all about Charlie Chaplin! Yay!

Thanks the wonderful Candlewick Press for the review copy!

This isn’t the first children’s book with Charlie Chaplin as a subject but it is certainly one of the most striking. It is handsomely illustrated by Ed Young using collages of torn paper and ink. (An idea for an art project in school or at home?)

Image via Candlewick Press

Written by Gary Golio, the book tells, in kid-friendly terms, the story of Chaplin’s impoverished early life, the beginnings of his career on the stage and the birth of his iconic Tramp character. With classic cinema fighting for its life in a world where a movie from 2010 is seen as “old”, its message could not be more timely and welcome. Smile works as an introduction for a young person who may never have heard of Chaplin or his films.

I like children’s books that introduce the finer things to their young readers. I consider Little Schubert by M.B. Goffstein to be the gold standard in this regard. She presented Schubert in a way that was interesting and appealing to me as a small child. She respected her young audience and wanted to be a friendly guide rather than a condescending grownup.

Image via Candlewick Press

Smile succeeds quite well on this score. Chaplin’s kind of comedy is sometimes written off as too old-fashioned by modern know-it-alls but his films are shown enormous respect here. As bonus, a bright, movie-loving child will get an early taste of film theory.

“And Charlie began to understand

How Funny and Sad went hand in hand”

Gary Golio

Get this for your children, grandchildren or get it for yourself, I won’t tell. And you’ll probably want to snag a few Charlie Chaplin films too because chances are, the kiddies will want to experience this laughing and crying business for themselves. Golio includes a list of Chaplin films that he considers particularly suitable for young viewers.

Oh! And be sure to share this little detail with a kid (or a kid at heart)! They will love it!

Isn’t it great?

Availability: This book will be released as a hardcover edition on March 26, 2019.


  1. Shari Polikoff

    Now if there were only some way to expose youngsters to that wealth of ‘pre-2010’ film classics while they’re still a captive audience in school. I’m still thinking of that comment on the TCM website by a teenage girl, captivated by her first viewing of ‘Charade,’ who said she was the only one in her high school class who knew who Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn were.

    If an ‘educated’ person is expected to have at least a passing acquaintance with the works of Dickens, Shakespeare, and Picasso, etc, by high school, how can they be left unaware of the Chaplins, Bogarts, and John Fords out there?

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