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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!
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