A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there is little to be concerned with in this biography, other than the possibility that kids may try to reproduce Houdini's feats.
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What's the story?
Children's author, magician, and friend of Bess Houdini (the magician's wife) Sid Fleischman sorts out the myths from the reality in the life of Harry Houdini.
Born Erich Weiss, son of a rabbi in Budapest, Hungary, in 1874, he emigrated to American as a small boy, and ended up in Appleton, Wisconsin, which he later claimed as his birthplace. Impoverished, Erich ran away from home at age 12, hoping to make enough money to send some back to his family.
But working at shining shoes, selling papers, and carrying messages earned him barely enough to scrape by. In his teens he began to study magic, and named himself after a famous French illusionist. Eventually he became the most famous magician, escape artist, and debunker of spiritualists of all time. Includes bibliography and index.
Is it any good?
Put this one on that special shelf -- so far, it's way too small -- of biographies that kids will actually get excited about.
Author Sid Fleischman has been a professional magician, and he knew the subject's wife. So he has both a personal and professional connection to his material, and it shows on nearly every page. In this lively, entertaining biography, Fleischman does more than just retell the major events of Houdini's life, and even more than separate myth from fact (a tricky job in this case). He carefully walks readers through the evidence and his own reasoning process, making good use of his insider knowledge along the way.
He includes numerous photographs, some from his personal collection published here for the first time. And he uses his well-known humor and some novelistic writing techniques to make this bio what all of them ought to be: an engrossing story.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about magic and Houdini's legacy. Why is he still so famous? Why was he so determined to debunk spiritualists? Why are these kinds of tricks so appealing? Kids may want to see modern magicians such as David Copperfield, and they may want to learn some tricks.