Graphic Novel Review 120/365: Houdini: The Handcuff King

Please keep up with all of my old Graphic Novel Reviews here as I quest for 365 in 365 days!  Or hit up #GN365 on Twitter.

Yesterday, I mentioned that this week I was going to try my hand at some reviews in the non-fiction genre.  Today, I sort of keep my promise and bring you a piece of historical fiction about Ehrich Weiss, better known as Harry Houdini!

Title: Houdini: The Handcuff King 

Author(s): Jason Lutes and Nick Bertozzi

Publisher:  Hyperion (2008)

Age Rating: 10+

I was never a huge fan of Harry Houdini, but I admire the skill and showmanship of big performers.  Houdini fits that bill.  He’s a legend, so when I saw Houdini: The Handcuff King on Mr. Whitaker’s desk last week, I had to borrow it and review it.  I was not disappointed.

This graphic novel is short, to the point, and filled with drama.  What we are given is one death-defying jump from Houdini’s career that is artfully done and loosely crafted in history.  The writers admit that much of the book is speculation since a true magician never reveals his/her secrets.  But even though the book captures only a day or two in the life of Houdini, the reader gets a fairly good idea of who the man was, how he cared for those things he held dear, and his ever-so-present ego.

Perfect for readers over 10, The Handcuff King is a great intro to the magician but the book also works a lesson in determination, gusto, and drive.  Plus the shortness of the book and lack of words on some pages guarantees a short read, giving you more time for activities, discussion, or another title to toss into the mix if you are using it in the classroom!

While the art is simple, I will say Lutes and Bertozzi do a tremendous job building suspense with their parallel editing and panel layouts.  It’s rare that a graphic novel gets my heart pumping a bit quicker than normal, but the construction of this book does just that.  If I ever taught this book, I would for sure focus on how the authors create suspense through their art.

Give this one a read, fans of history and magic!  Houdini astonished Boston, and he’ll astonish you as well!

Happy reading!


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