Synopses & Reviews
When an author comes to speak to his class in a rundown area of Providence, Houdini decides to make money by writing his own novel.
Rule #8 for Writing a Kids Novel: Try to include a few lists in your novel. Kids like lists.
Houdini is way more interesting than the kid the author wrote about.
Rule #6: You have to like your characters or the reader wont care about them. (How can I not like myself?)
Houdini chronicles his life as he and his friends start a leaf-raking business, befriend Old Man Jackson, a Vietnam War veteran with a seriously intimidating dog, and get even with the neighborhood bully, Angel. But its hard to find a way to write about his dad losing his job or his brother, Franklin, who is first reported missing in action in Iraq and then still seems to be missing when he comes home.
No matter what, Houdini and his friends rely on one another to figure out how to do the right thing. And Houdini discovers that writing and thinking about his friends and family lets him get to know them in completely new ways.
"Johnson (Loserville) delivers a strong contemporary urban novel with cross-gender appeal, thanks to his likable, kind, and clear-eyed narrator, John Smith Jr. Nicknamed Houdini due to his obsession with the magician, the 13-year-old lives in Providence, R.I., in a neighborhood sandwiched between an affluent section and 'the one people won't walk through after midnight unless they have a bodyguard.' Presented in the guise of a novel that Houdini, inspired by a visiting author, is writing, the story traces the events of one autumn when Houdini's beloved older brother, Franklin, is stationed in Iraq, and Houdini and two friends start a leaf-raking business. Houdini's daily challenges facing the local bully, befriending a scary Vietnam vet, fearing for Franklin's safety are set against a realistic background of urban decay, broken families, and impending job layoffs, but his humorous edge and the well-paced action create an easy tone. While the overly palatable ending falls short of credibility, Johnson offers solid insights into the varied well-drawn characters, and readers will appreciate Houdini's realization that 'writing makes you think very hard about things.' Ages 8 12. Agent: George Nicholson, Sterling Lord Literistic." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“A middle-schooler writes a kids novel; an author writes an engaging, amiable read-and, presto, a tale about a boy nicknamed Houdini turns out magical. . . . By turns poignant and downright hilarious, Houdinis story/novel is delivered in a voice thats wonderfully authentic.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Johnson (Loserville) delivers a strong contemporary urban novel with cross-gender appeal. . . . Johnson offers solid insights into the varied well-drawn characters, and readers will appreciate Houdinis realization that ‘writing makes you think very hard about things.” Publishers Weekly
“A bit grittier and more believably boylike than most contemporary first-person narratives, this novel has a lot of heart as well. And while a narrator who makes lists is common enough, Houdinis are decidedly more amusing than most.” Booklist
“The perfect book for adolescent readersespecially boyswho like humor combined with characters that seem completely real. [A] satisfying novel that will leave readers happy they met Houdini.” Providence Journal
About the Author
Peter Johnson is the critically acclaimed author of several collections of poetry, short stories, and novels, including Miracles & Mortifications, winner of the James Laughlin Award; Eduardo & "I"; Pretty Happy!; Love Poems for the Millennium; Rants and Raves: Selected and New Prose Poems; I'm a Man; and two young adult novels: Loserville and What Happened, a Paterson Prize-winner that ALA Booklist called the "most gorgeously written YA of 2007." Johnson is the recipient of two creative writing awards from Rhode Island State Council on the Arts and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He teaches creative writing and children's literature at Providence College in Rhode Island, where he lives with his wife, Genevieve, and two sons.