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Houdini: The Handcuff King - A Review
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Article by Scott Tingley, August 09, 2007

Okay, it's been sitting on my shelf for too long….just staring at me waiting to be reviewed.

Here goes nothing…

Harry Houdini mesmerized a generation of Americans when he was alive, and continues to do so 80 years after his death.

This is a "snapshot" of Houdini's life, centering on one of his most famous jumps. As Houdini prepares for a death-defying leap into the icy Charles River in Boston, biographer Jason Lutes and artist Nick Bertozzi reveal Houdini's life and influence: from the anti-Semitism Houdini fought all his life, to the adulation of the American public; from his hounding by the press, to his loving relationship with his wife Bess; from his egoism to his insecurity; from his public persona -- to the secret behind his most amazing trick! And it's all in graphic form, so it's fresh, original, and unlike anything previously published about this most fascinating of American showmen.

(from hyperionbooksforchildren.com)

Wow. That was tough. I just need to add in that Bertozzi does a really good job illustrating the book using only the details necessary for the story to great effect. Also, that the third color is nice – black, white and blue . Oh, and that the small bits of humor were well appreciated.

And…done. What now?

Well, I could mention that the book would be useful for a number of things in a middle and high school classroom: studies on the issues of fame in the 20 th /21 st century; anti-Semitism; unique forms of biography, etc. It is content appropriate for about grade 5 and up with the publisher listing it for 10-14 yr olds.

Enough with trying to be clever in my review (all the neighbourhood children point at me and laugh: “There goes the guy that tried to be clever in his review. Let's point and laugh at him.”). This is a really good book. Jason Lutes rises to the tough job of giving a clear picture of one day in Houdini's life, but at the same time giving us insight into the character of the man which gives the reader more than one day's information. Nick Bertozzi takes a minimalist approach to his backgrounds, but that makes sense for this type of story, and he shines when he does add details. A favorite of mine is the way he shows Houdini in the cold-black water. Powerful in its simplicity.

This book has generated some positive buzz around the internet since hitting the shelves, and with good cause. This is a solid book, and it sets the bar high as first put out by the Center For Cartoon Studies.

Teacher, there is also a discussion guide that goes with the book (on left hand side of this page). There are discussion questions and projects that would be useful and can save you a bit of planning. Always a good thing.

Hardcover $16.99 ISBN: 0786839023 ISBN-13: 9780786839025



 

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