Updated: Sep 8
Movies Are Magic: The Director’s Cut (2022) Jennifer Churchill, illustrated by Howard Edwards Creative, Asanka Herath
Published by Jennifer Churchill in partnership with The Film Detective
Paperback, 87 pages
Includes an introduction by Ben Mankiewicz, homeschool projects, teacher’s guide and photos
(Movies Are Magic: The Director’s Cut is an updated and expanded version of Churchill’s original Movies Are Magic from 2018.)
This book speaks to my heart. Okay, I know I’m not being very objective here, but (1) I’m a public librarian who works with children, (2) I’m a classic movie fan, (3) and the book does what it sets out to do.
Churchill’s goal is to provide “an introductory glimpse into the fascinating history of the origins of the streaming images kids watch today. It is my hope this updated edition will help bring the movies and history highlighted here even more to life.” Not only that, but Churchill also wants to celebrate the act of watching movies together with others, they way they were intended to be viewed.
From the very beginning of humanity, we have been captivated by stories made up of images, and Churchill takes us on a journey starting with the Lascaux cave paintings, moving into vaudeville, series motion photography, the Lumière brothers, silent film, and more. In writing a book about classic movies for children, one might be tempted to go either into too much detail, overwhelming the young reader, or too little, making kids wonder “What’s the point?” Movies Are Magic finds that sweet spot, focusing on many of the essential players and films that children may recognize, but more importantly are accessible, such as Charlie Chaplin, King Kong (1933), and cartoons.
Not only is the text approachable, so also are the illustrations. As with most smiley-faced emojis, the people depicted here have similar faces, easy entry points, if you will. When kids see the Chaplins, Keatons, and others onscreen, the familiar illustrations have prepared them for the unforgettable faces. And Churchill’s son Weston and his illustrated dog Oscar are adorable! Yet these graphics also allow children reading the book (or having it read to them) to place themselves into the stories as children frequently do with picture books.
To those naysayers who might counter, “Let’s get real. No kid is going to want to watch old black-and-white movies when they have all this other great stuff they can stream anytime they want,” I would challenge them to show a Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin short to any kid and ask them how they like it. You probably won’t even have to ask them how they liked it. You’ll see the smiles on their faces.
The book also does a fine job of introducing media literacy as well as discussing complex and controversial concepts. The genius of the book is that these ideas are not presented in a pedantic way, but rather organically.
Churchill also includes many fun ideas for kids and grown ups such as movie night and recipe pairings based on classic movies, classic movie and snack night ideas, how to make a zoetrope, and more.
What’s not to love about this book? It’s a must-own for people who love classic movies and want to pass that love on to their kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews, but it also provides a great way for parents who may not know much about classic movies an opportunity to discover them with their children.
My hat’s off to Churchill, Weston, and Oscar, for presenting such a fun book that can be enjoyed for years to come.
This review is part of the 2023 Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge. You can (and should!) sign up here and be a part of the challenge, telling others about the classic film books you're reading, and getting suggestions for your own reading. Enjoy!