Krull, Kathleen. Houdini: World’s Greatest Mystery Man and Escape King. Ill. by Eric Velasquez. New York: Walker & Co., 2005. ISBN: 0802789544
In this picture book biography, Krull chronicles the life of Erik Weiss from his early life through his famous performances and ending with his death in 1926 and information regarding how he was able to accomplish such amazing feats. At an early age, Houdini performed for money in his backyard, later after memorizing a book about magic he traveled and performed twelve shows a day. In both instances he contributed money to his struggling family. Between each small chapter is a description in verse of one of Houdini’s escape acts. They are in chronological order and include: The Milk Can Escape, The Metamorphosis, The Underwater Handcuff Release, The Water Torture Cell, and The Suspended Straitjacket.
This book is on the 2006 Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, Selector’s Choice list. It is easy to see why it is notable as before reading Houdini by Krull, I did not realize such quality biography for elementary students existed. The book cleverly and clearly sequences information about Houdini’s life interspersed with verse describing some of his acts. This makes the reader feel a part of Houdini’s world and the accompanying illustrations add to the feeling of “you are there”. The oil illustrations are also bright and appealing. The bibliography included contributes to the accuracy of Krull’s work and the web sources are sure to delight Houdini fans. Although some refer to the book as narrow in scope, I think it is perfect for the intended age range (Ages 6 – 10).
KIRKUS REVIEWS: “Budding magicians won’t find more than hints here of how Houdini did it, but a tempting set of print and digital resources caps this perceptive and dramatic tribute.”
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY: “A fine introduction to a fascinating, enigmatic figure.”
SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL: “The author’s crisp narrative style and careful choice of detail are evident here.”
*Also by Kathleen Krull
Pocahontas: Princess of the New World
Hillary Rodham Clinton, Dreams Taking Flight (Teacher’s Guide available at www.kathleenkrull.com)
*For older readers
Houdini: Master of Illusion by Clinton Cox. ISBN: 9780590949606
*Use an idea from “17 Specific Ways to Use Biographies” at http://home.san.rr.com/kathleenkrull/biography.html
I liked Biopoems and Writing Classmates’ Biographies.