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I Don't Know How the Story Ends by J. B.…
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I Don't Know How the Story Ends

by J. B. Cheaney

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Showing 5 of 5
It took some time before I could get into this novel. One of the primary reasons I almost walked away from it is Matilda Ransom, Isobel's mother. She is onerous and selfish, and it really bothered me that she used corporal punishment as an outlet for her own issues/feelings. The (possible) dalliance with Charlie Chaplin wasn't necessary to the story; and discussions of a marital affair (even set in 1918) isn't something I want to introduce to my 10-year-old. This seems more young adult than middle grade to me. What kept me reading was learning the history of movie making and Ranger's relationship with Isobel. The cousins developed a genuine friendship, and the sincerity of his efforts to help Isobel later in the novel (no spoilers) is noteworthy. While I liked Sylvie, she is an enigma. Her behavior seems to mirror that of an autistic child, though no medical condition is mentioned. I also scratched my head when she was spending the night with a girl whose family were none-to-pleased about Sylvie's antics in their previous meeting (pouring India ink on the child's head). Why would they agree to host such a high maintenance child?

Pros: Readers interested in character-driven historical fiction will enjoy this early history of life in the early days of Hollywood and the beginning of the moving picture industry.

There's more to our review. Visit The Reading Tub®. While you’re there, add a link to your review of the book.
  TheReadingTub | Apr 27, 2016 |
Set in 1918 during World War I, this novel focuses on early Hollywood.

Isobel and her sister Sylvie travel to Hollywood for the summer because their mother is tired of dreary, rain-drenched Seattle. Their father left several months ago to fight in the war overseas and their mother needs sunshine and her sister’s company. Upon arrival, they meet their Uncle’s son, Ranger. He is a force! He loves the movies and immediately gets them involved with making movies. They end up sneaking around, “borrowing” equipment, and lying to cover their own silent movie, for movies didn’t have sound yet.

This is early Hollywood where there’s little security so they can run around and even interrupt movies and their aunt’s husband has a lot of money which means they get to meet the famous early Hollywood actors. The novel teaches a lot about story-telling--where should the “frame” be for each part of the story--is just one example. This endeavor is a great distraction for the girls because they worry about their father who hasn’t sent a letter in a while. They get “hooked” on movies and storytelling. Isobel loves to tell stories, but she feels that she never can end a story well, so how does their summer end? It ends with real life. We and Isobel learn that as our lives change, we grow from the unexpected challenges and surprises that life brings us and even art/storytelling can teach us about life and how to respond to these new developments. ( )
  acargile | Apr 11, 2016 |
A high 3.5 stars. This review is also available on my blog, Read Till Dawn.

I know pretty much nothing about the history of filmmaking. What little I do know comes from Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret. I know much more now, though - I Don't Know How the Story Ends is a very educational book! That's not its priority, though, that's not what it's first and foremost meant to be. It's just that it's set during WWI, in Hollywood, and the main characters happen to be making a movie.

This is a rather strange book, filled with a mixture of old movie-making and timeless relationship issues. Isobel is torn apart between missing her father - who is serving as a doctor in the war - being proud of him, and worrying that her mother is forgetting about him. Charlie Chaplin approaches Isobel's mother partway through the story, offering her a role in his next movie, and Isobel is afraid to see her mother blushing and laughing with him. When her father comes home injured - pretty mutilated, really - Isobel's internal conflict takes center stage for a while as she can't cope with the fact that her handsome father has been turned into such a scarred, hideous creature.

As I'm completely uninterested in movie-making both past and present, some parts of the story kind of dragged for me as the kids wandered around filming shot after shot. By the end of the story I was a little more invested in the movie-making process, though, and the movie itself intrigued me because it was like a puzzle: they had all these scenes, shot out of order, and no idea what sort of story they would make. It was pretty cool seeing the story evolve as shooting went along. The movie they eventually produced was really great, too, though the scene where they reveal it fell a bit flat for me. I'm not sure why - perhaps I just wasn't invested in the characters enough.

That's probably my main issue with the book, really, is that I wasn't quite as absorbed into the story and the characters as I usually am. Perhaps it was just me, perhaps I was having an off-day, but I never truly reached the place where I abandoned my surroundings and dived whole-heartedly into Isobel's. I liked Isobel, but I kind of hated the way she reacted toward her father; I liked Ranger, but he sometimes struck me as being a rather contrived character; I like Isobel's little sister Sylvie, but - actually, no buts there. Sylvie was perfect, just as annoying and gullible and precious as any real-life little sister. I think she may have actually been my favorite character.

Anyway, I do recommend this book to you if you like the history of filmmaking or reading about the families of men who went off to war. I think many people will like this book more than I did, so don't skip it because I liked but didn't love it. There are a lot of different things to chew on in I Don't Know How the Story Ends, a lot of different themes that different people will draw out of the story, but I personally didn't get anything out of it besides a few hours of entertainment.

And really, a few hours of entertainment is benefit enough all on its own. ( )
  Jaina_Rose | Mar 1, 2016 |
Lovely. Just lovely.

Earlier I was in the middle of a streak of novels set around WWII; now I've moved back in time to WWI. In I Don't Know How the Story Ends, thirteen-year-old Isobel, with her hellion little sister Sylvie, is dragged by their mother to California. Their father is in France, having felt driven to volunteer as a field surgeon, and their home in Seattle was beset by rain until their mother couldn't take it any more and fled South to sunshine and her sister.

And Isobel is not happy. She's miserable without her father, and now … fine, it's sunny, but with the sun comes her aunt's stepson Ranger, and no one will allow her to just be miserable alone as she wants. Because Hollywood is being born, and Ranger, she discovers, has caught the fever and is making a film – and he wants her in it.

I liked it. I liked it a great deal. There was a bit of a level of complexity I didn't expect in Isobel's relationship with her parents. I liked the children's love-hate relationship with each other. I loved the setting. I wish this book had been around when I was thirteen – I might have gone into film-making.

The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review. ( )
  Stewartry | Jan 10, 2016 |
I DON’T KNOW HOW THE STORY ENDS by J.B. Cheaney is an engaging work middle grade historical fiction.

After her father enlists in World War I, Isobel along with her mother and younger sister go to stay with Izzy’s aunt in Hollywood. Hoping to impress a famous film-maker, Izzy’s cousin Ranger talks Izzy and her sister into helping him make a movie using a “borrowed” camera. However when a letter arrives from Izzy’s father, they reconsider the ending of their film and must face the real-world of war.

The movie-making theme may attract some readers who might otherwise avoid historical fiction. Librarians will find that youth are attracted to the movie-making theme. Show early Hollywood movies available at Internet Archive at https://archive.org/details/moviesandfilms. Create a bulletin board showing early film makers and images from their movies. Then, set up your own video production maker station. Be sure to use editing features that turn the film black and white.

To learn more about the author, go to http://www.jbcheaney.com/.

Published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky on October 6, 2015. ARC from the publisher. ( )
  eduscapes | Oct 22, 2015 |
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Twelve-year-old Isobel is unhappy about spending the summer of 1918 at her aunt's home in Hollywood with her mother and sister until her cousin, Ranger, involves the girls in creating the perfect film and, when her father returns from the war, his serious injury becomes their inspiration.… (more)

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