Synopses & Reviews
Who was this man who could walk through brick walls and, with a snap of his fingers, vanish elephants? In these pages you will meet the astonishing Houdini magician, ghost chaser, daredevil, pioneer aviator, and king of escape artists. No jail cell or straitjacket could hold him! He shucked off handcuffs as easily as gloves.
In this fresh, witty biography of the most famous bamboozler since Merlin, Sid Fleischman, a former professional magician, enriches his warm homage with insider information and unmaskings. Did Houdini really pick the jailhouse lock to let a fellow circus performer escape? Were his secrets really buried with him? Was he a bum magician, as some rivals claimed? How did he manage to be born in two cities, in two countries, on two continents at the same instant?
Here are the stories of how a knockabout kid named Ehrich Weiss, the son of an impoverished rabbi, presto-changoed himself into the legendary Harry Houdini. Here, too, are rare photographs never before seen by the general reader!
"Fleischman's (The Whipping Boy) colorful, anecdotal biography of Harry Houdini (1874 -1926) offers an accessible portrait of this master of magic and escape. The author sets an affectionate and humorous tone, beginning with his subject's most famous feats, and then declaring, 'As a devout magician, I am able to reveal only that I may "not" reveal Houdini's secrets.' Fleischman neatly sorts out facts, speculation and legend as he traces the performer's career, from his early stints in vaudeville, with a circus and traveling medicine show and even, along with his wife and on-stage sidekick, Bess, 'a part-time career as ghost wranglers and mind-reading fakers.' A savvy self-promoter, Houdini made headlines through such successful challenges as breaking out of a Chicago jail cell, yet, Fleischman wryly notes, his 'sudden fame was written in vanishing ink.' After securing a solid reputation in Europe, the 'monarch of manacles' became a stage sensation and financial success in this country as well, with some of his more famous feats, such as escaping from a straitjacket while suspended upside-down from a building. A 'teenage conjuror' and former vaudevillian himself, Fleischman brings an insider's sensibility to Houdini's story (after Houdini's death, he came to know Bess, who 'became a sort of den mother to us young enthusiasts'). One gets the sense that the author delved into his subject for his own enjoyment, and brings readers along for an entertaining ride. Copious photographs help flesh out Houdini's robust, larger-than-life personality and underscore the range and audacity of his exploits. Ages 9-up." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Fleischman's tone is lively and he develops a relationship with readers by revealing just enough truth behind Houdini's razzle-dazzle to keep the legend alive." School Library Journal
"[T]errifically engaging, delivered in a taut sideshow patter packed with delicious vocabulary." Booklist
In this passionate biography, the Newbery Medal-winning author of The Whipping Boy turns his eye to the greatest magician of them all: Harry Houdini. Includes an index, Author's Note, and bibliography. Photos.
About the Author
"I'm too lazy to retire," says Sid Fleischman, author of more than sixty books for children, adults, and magicians. His tales have been translated into nineteen languages. Among his many awards is the Newbery Medal for his novel The Whipping Boy
Sid Fleischman hesitated to write a story about the Holocaust until he found the right characters and plot. "The Jewish sense of humor miraculously survived the Holocaust," says Mr. Fleischman. "The Entertainer and the Dybbuk captures not only the inhumane tragedies but the human comedy of the recent past."
Born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in San Diego, California, Sid Fleischman is the author of the pirate epics The Ghost in the Noonday Sun, The 13th Floor, and The Giant Rat of Sumatra. His most recent books are The White Elephant, a novel, and a biography, Escape! The Story of The Great Houdini.
Sid Fleischman lives in Santa Monica, California.