Lights! Camera! Alice!

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Yesterday’s review was of ‘The invention of Hugo Cabret’ which is in part inspired by the life and work of Georges Méliès, a pioneer of developments in early cinema. Today’s book is about the first woman in the world to make movies, an excellent and much needed read as few have ever heard of her.

Divided into sections marking episodes of Alice Guy-Blanché's life, each is introduced by the title of one of the films she made, presented in the style of a film title card of the period.

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The illustrations are wonderful, full of detail and drawing on images from the time. The author/ illustrator team have cleverly picked highlights from this fascinating, action-packed life and turned them into a very beautiful, inspiring book about a woman who everyone should know about- and yet so few do. Alice’s childhood was full of love and stories. However, misfortunes followed, her father died and Alice had to go out to work. This was when she heard of a job in a camera company and started working in photography.

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The book tells how she went with her employer to see a new kind of camera- one which showed moving pictures- and how Alice thought that these could be used to tell a story instead of showing the same scenes again and again! She found new ways to excite her audience and hand painted her films to add colour. She also added sound to her films long before Hollywood made ‘talkies’.

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However, when in 1907, Alice went to America, she found no one had ever heard of her. She was a real pioneer in the film making world, yet because she was a woman has only recently started to gain the recognition and respect she deserves. Credit for her films was often given to male assistants and she was completely ignored. This book does a wonderful job of making her story accessible to everyone and includes a comprehensive reading list to enable further research at the end.

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A ‘Director’s Cut’ (final note) from the author adds detail to the story, including how Alice’s memoirs were eventually published in America in 1986- twenty years after her death. Alice Guy-Blanché was an amazing character, showing true creativity, originality, determination and courage. Her story is a real inspiration and one which deserves to be shared, This book would be the perfect addition to school libraries and could be used as reference during work on inventors or pioneers, giving her the recognition she truly deserves.

Lights! Camera! Alice! Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Simona Ciraolo

Chronicle ISBN: 978-1452141343