I Don’t Know How the Story Ends


Isobel Ransom is feeling anxious.  Her father is treating wounded soldiers in France, leaving her to be the responsible one.  But it’s hard to be responsible when a fast-talking, movie-obsessed boy is dragging you all over Hollywood.  Ranger is making his very own moving picture and needs Isobel and her little sister Sylvie to be his stars.  There’s just one problem: the picture needs an ending.  And it has to be the kind of ending where the hero saves the day and returns home to his family.  Safe and sound.  It just has to . . .

I Don’t Know How the Story Ends

by J. B. Cheaney. 

Published by Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky

Now available in paperback!

ISBN # 978-1492609445        $16.99 U.S.

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“I Don’t Know How the Story Ends will grab you by your shirt and drop you right into the early days of Hollywood and movie making.  Peopled with delightful characters who find that real life is not just like the movies, this is a funny, insightful, and touching celebration of friendship and family, the imagination, and the power of the movies.”

Karen Cushman, Newbery medalist


“J. B. Cheaney masterfully combines a family’s pathos in wartime, a vivid sense of old Hollywood (including appearances by the era’s superstars), PLUS  a suspenseful, creative adventure through an entirely new kind of storytelling: MOVING PICTURES!”

Cheryl Harness, author/illustrator of The Remarkable Ben Franklin and Cheryl Harness Histories


“This book is a love letter to the art of storytelling, exploring how the creative process becomes something bigger than ourselves. It’s a celebration of the way stories help us see our own lives more clearly.”

Caroline Starr Rose, author of Blue Birds


“The novel is packed with cameos by Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and Charlie Chaplin…fascinating tidbits about the early days of film, and a relentless series of action scenes. Set dressing and quick pace aside, as narrated by Isobel, the story relies on—and delivers—solid characterization to drive it forward. Impressive on all fronts.”

Kirkus, Starred Review


“The electrifying setting of early Hollywood, along with the ever-relevant story of a young girl’s search for stability in an increasingly chaotic world, make this a winner…Industrious, creative, and resourceful young characters will charm readers interested in the life-changing magic of filmmaking.”

School Library Journal


“Cheaney (Somebody on This Bus Is Going to Be Famous) offers a zippy coming-of-age romp featuring cameos from film stars like Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford, as well as lovely descriptions of a blooming Hollywood.  Readers will be absorbed as Cheaney’s characters embrace their creativity and find comfort through the art of film.”

Publishers Weekly



(Because “More Movie Madness” sounds like much more fun than “Educational Resources”)

This novel was a pleasure to research–I got to watch lots of movies!  My affection for that era subsequently grew and sloshed over in a series of blog posts, listed here:

How to Watch Silent Movies

D. W. Griffith and the Birth of an Industry

Hollywood Backstories: Charles S. Chaplin

Hollywood Backstories: Douglas Fairbanks


SCREENWRITING 101 – Your next class writing project!

Lots of things have changed since the early days of film making, but perhaps the most profound change is that it’s ridiculously easy to make a movie.  Where Ranger and Sam had to haul a 30-pound camera and tripod to outdoor locations, laboriously develop, wash, and stretch the film, store the rushes on reels and cut by hand, any sixth-grader with a good camera and an editing program could make a movie without getting his hands dirty.  Your school might even have a multi-media studio where kids can work together on all kinds of exciting projects.  But one thing hasn’t changed:


That’s where the magic begins, and where screenwriting comes in.  But even if you’re not making movies in class, you’re learning to write, and screenwriting is a fun way to experiment with dramatic expression, story development, and creative thinking.

Everything you need is available in ten free downloads–click here!