Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Ladies and gentlemen! Boys and girls! Let's take a break from the holiday books and gaze upon what I think is one of the best biographies written this year. Behold Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini by Sid Fleischman. Ta Da!
I knew Sid Fleischman was a Newbery Medalist, but I had no idea that he was a magician (which means I need to read his memoir). Harry Houdini was an obsession of his as a teenager, and reading his life story was what drew him into magic.
I must admit that I was a little skeptical of how much this would appeal to children. You don't really hear that much about The Great Houdini anymore. Shame on me for not realizing what a terrific story Houdini's life is. A rags to riches story, with true drama and adventure (jailbreaks!), humor (Houdini's reinvention of his biography, Fleischman's asides to the reader), and romance (with his devoted wife, Bess). Trust Fleischman to turn this into a funny and engrossing read. He pulls the reader into the story, addressing the reader from time to time. This is not your typical "X was born in Anywhere, Anystate on Anydate".
If you come to me and tell me that your child has a biography reading assignment, I will probably place this in your hands. Who knows if your child will be inspired by reading about Houdini as Sid Fleischman was when he read about Houdini? I've met several magicians since I've started my career as a children's librarian, and they've all told me how they wolfed down every magic book in their library when they were children (and they always make a point to tell the children that in their productions).
One word about the length-yes, it is over 200 pages. However, the typeface is quite large, and there are several pages of phtographs. There is also a bibliography in the back. It is an amazingly fun read.
We also have many books about magic in our library.
Houdini tribute site (extensive site)
Houdini Historical Center