Sunday, January 22, 2006

Houdini: World's Greatest Mystery Man and Escape King

Krull, Kathleen. 2005. HOUDINI: WORLD’S GREATEST MYSTERY MAN AND ESCAPE KING. Ill. by Eric Velasquez. New York: Walker. ISBN 0802789536 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-6]

In the opening pages of Krull’s impressive picture book biography, a master of ceremonies calls out to readers, “Welcome! Enter! Prepare to be dazzled!" Highlighting both Houdini’s motivations as well as his greatest escapes and other magical feats, Krull’s offering presents readers both an intimate overview of Houdini’s life and insight into his most famous tricks.

Asking, “Who was this man? Ah, but Houdini was a mystery. As boggling as his performances. His journey was epic—and so were the tales he told about it,” Krull’s dramatic narrative quickly engages readers. It is the marriage of story and illustration that makes this collaboration such an outstanding offering. Coming together seamlessly to share details of Houdini’s life, and building on the tension created by Krull’s text, Velasquez masterfully creates a stunning visual narrative, using rich oils and strong fields of bold color ( including blacks, reds, and yellows) to frame images of Houdini performing his most famous and daring feats. Added to many of the spreads are posters and other evocative details that add further drama to what the reader feels. The abundance of source material is also noteworthy; matter includes a bibliography which offers website addresses and an extensive “behind the scenes” section. Here we find an appropriate closing to the book with a final statement from the master of ceremonies as he states, “and we truly hope you enjoyed the show!!!” Without hesitance, we can reply, “We have!”

Readers could select a favorite from the highlighted tricks described and choose to illustrate their favorite using another art technique.

Other books about the Harry Houdini:
Cobb, Vicki. HARRY HOUDINI. ISBN 0756612462
MacLeod, Elizabeth. HARRY HOUDINI: A MAGICAL LIFE. ISBN 1553377702

By Rose Brock

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