Monday, January 22, 2007
Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini
Fleischman, Sid. 2006. ESCAPE! THE STORY OF THE GREAT HOUDINI. New York: Greenwillow. ISBN 0060850949 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-9]
Illustrated with plenty of historical photos and posters, this entertaining biography of Harry Houdini for middle-grade readers is a fascinating look at the man, the legend, and Fleischman’s personal role model. The man turns out to be a hard-working immigrant; the legend’s “biggest sleight-of-hand was himself;” and the role model was courageous, innovative, and an enormous inspiration to the author. None of the famous stunts are deconstructed enough to give away the “magic,” but each is lovingly and admiringly described.
Fleischman, as a young man, had the unique advantage of meeting Houdini’s widow. Their conversations, fondly recounted, provide a primary source unlike any other, and support the author’s enthusiasm for his subject. Another interesting question raised by Fleischman revolves around the pitfalls of historical research: in this case, Houdini’s own tendencies to obscure and transform the facts of his life.
Create and rehearse a talent show act, and draw a poster to publicize it.
Children can choose a famous person they’d like to know more about, and research and write a mini-biography of her/him, using books, magazines, the internet, and primary sources, if available. Were they able to find out everything they wanted to, or did they run into some of the same problems that Fleischman did in his biography of Houdini?
Other books about Houdini
Krull, Katherine. HOUDINI: THE WORLD’S GREATEST MYSTERY MAN AND ESCAPE KING. ISBN 0802789536.
Kalush, William. THE SECRET LIFE OF HOUDINI: THE MAKING OF AMERICA’S FIRST SUPERHERO. ISBN 0743272072
Other books by Sid Fleischman:
Fleischman, Sid. THE ABRACADABRA KID. ISBN 068814859X
Fleischman, Sid. THE WHIPPING BOY. ISBN 0688062164
Fleischman, Sid. THE GIANT RAT OF SUMATRA, OR PIRATES GALORE. ISBN 0060742402
By Julie Brinker