Setting: Hollywood, 1918, the silent motion picture era of Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, the Keystone Cops, and director D.W. Griffith, all of whom make at least a cameo appearance in this rollicking tale of movie-making and adventure.
Characters: 12 year old Isobel Ransom of Seattle, whose surgeon father, Robert Ransom, is faraway in Europe at war and whose mother, Matilda Ransom, decides to take the remainder of the family to Los Angeles to soak up some summer sunshine.
6 year old Sylvie Ransom, Isobel’s little sister and mischievous menace.
Aunt Buzzy Bell, Mother’s sister, who married Mr. Titus Bell when she came to tutor his son from his first marriage, 13 year old Ranger Bell. Ranger’s beautiful Indian mother is dead, and Ranger himself is a what my mama would call a ring-tailed tooter: movie lot lizard and would-be film director.
Samuel Patrick Service, Ranger’s secret and secretive partner in the movie-making business, seemingly a partner because he mysteriously has access to a camera and other film-making equipment and know-how.
Plot: Well, a plot summary, or scenario as it’s called in the movie world, might divulge
“how the story ends”, and we wouldn’t want to do that, now would we?
Suffice it to say, that it was the setting and the characters and their madcap adventures that drew me into this cinematic narrative, and wouldn’t let me go until, well, I found out how the story would end.
Will Ranger and Sam make their movie? Will director D.W. Griffith see the completed film and give Ranger his big break in the movie business?
Will Isobel get the ending she wants—in her life and in the movie?
Will Isobel’s and Sylvie’s father come home safely from the battlefields of World War I? Will he be the same jovial and kind dad who left them to volunteer in a war that he didn’t have to fight?
Will Sylvie survive Hollywood, movie-making, and her own penchant for accidental near-death experiences?
Will Mother agree to appear in one of the romantic Charlie Chaplin’s movies?
Will Ranger be forced to return to the school he hates before he finishes his movie?
All will be revealed in I Don’t Know How the Story Ends by J.B. Cheney, available today, October 6, 2015, from your favorite book retailer.
I found the book to be fun and thoughtful at the same time, a combination which suits me just fine. Isobel is a proper, early twentieth century young lady, and at the same time she is intelligent and quite able to articulate her thoughts and desires. Ranger is a pill. And Sylvie is another. Sam is the strong, silent type, a young John Wayne or Gary Cooper. And because it’s set in 1918 Hollywood, the kids are able to run around all over the small town of Hollywood without the author having to get rid of the parents completely. In fact, the two sets of parents in the story have integral roles in the plot and the denouement, as Isobel in particular gets a glimpse of her parents as people with their own problems to solve and growing to do.
I’d recommend the book to anyone interested in early silent films, the history of Hollywood and the movies, the World War I era, or even just adventures and happy endings.