Keep Your Eye On The Kid

The Early Years of Buster Keaton

This post is part of Nonfiction Monday

hosted today by Geo Librarian
Flash Point Roaring Book Press (Macmillan)
(pub. 4.1.2008) 

32 pages

A True Tale with A Cherry On Top

A uthor and illustrator: Catherine Brighton
C haracter: Buster Keaton
O verview from the jacket flap: 
       "Nobody could take a fall like Buster Keaton ... When he was three, he joined his parents' stage act. Buster's father would throw him across the stage and shout, 'Keep your eye on the kid!'  Years later, the tumbling skills he learned as a child would make him one of the America's most beloved silent-film stars.
     Told from Buster's point of view, this beautifully illustrated biography evokes the streets and stages of early twentieth-century America and brings the remarkable childhood of a timeless comedian to life."

T antalizing taste: 
       "I was a backstage baby.  I sat on frogs' knees and I talked to wooden dummies while Dad and Mom did their act. They were called The Keatons, and I was Joe Keaton, like my dad.
     Then, one morning when I was fooling around, I took a tumble.  Harry Houdini picked me up and gave me my new name. 'Gee, that was some buster the kid took!'  You had to know how to take a fall in our business."

and something more:
Catherine Brighton's wonderful illustrations, particularly the cover of the picture book biography, Keep Your Eye On The Kid, remind me of Maurice Sendak's illustrations in The Night Kitchen.  And when I googled that impression, I found that many other reviewers have had the same thought. This style seems particularly fitting as Buster began his career essentially travelling through the air as part of his family's stage act. And then he became part of an imaginary world -- the world of films where gags portrayed people falling off roofs.  in a 1914 interview with the Detroit News, Buster Keaton talked about his work as essentially a stunt actor.  He said that the secret was to land limp, like a cat.  That comment reminded me of our cat who fell out of our 3rd floor San Francisco apartment and miraculously survived with only a broken toe (which healed in its bright pink cast she wore for a few weeks).  Maybe there's a lesson in that -- try to land limp (and keep smiling) when we feel we're getting tossed around.

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