Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Lights! Camera! Alice! The Thrilling True Adventures of the First Woman Filmmaker

Lights! Camera! Alice! The Thrilling True Adventures of the First Woman Filmmaker

Mara Rockliff
Illustrator:  Simona Ciraolo 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Chronicle Books, 2018   ISBN: 978-1452141343

When she was a little girl, Alice loved stories. She loved the tales that she found in the books that her papa sold, and the narratives that her grandmother and her nursemaid shared with her. Stories were the stuff of life and she could not wait “to find out what happened next.”

Unfortunately for Alice, what happened next was not pleasant at all. Papa’s business failed, and then he died, leaving Alice in dire need of a job. She ended up getting a position at a camera shop, and through her job she found out about a new innovation: cameras that could create moving pictures. Alice and her employer went to see one of the new moving pictures and they were astounded by it, even though the subject matter of the film was not all that interesting. The young woman began to think that moving picture cameras might be “put to better use.” Why show mundane scenes in moving pictures when you could tell stories instead.

Alice decided that she would try making some moving pictures of her own, and so she set about looking for costumes, she made sets, and found people to play the roles in the stories. At first her films’ sole purpose was to demo the cameras, but people liked her films so much that they were even willing to pay to see them.

Alice’s films were full of clever innovations that made them interesting and engaging. She became so successful that her competitors spied on her to steal her ideas. Alice and her young cameraman decided to go to America, thinking that the country that epitomized innovation would be the perfect place to build a new life. Little did they know that no one had even heard of Alice on the other side of the Atlantic. Little did they know that both success and heartbreak awaited them in the land of opportunity.

Most of us have never heard of Alice Guy-Blache and yet she was one of the first filmmakers in the world. She was also the first woman to make films, she made the first talking movie, and some even think that she was the first to make films that showed made up stories.

As was so often the case at that time, being female meant that Alice did not get the recognition that she deserved. Thanks to this book a new generation of girls will grow up knowing that Alice was a tour de force in the early years of film making.