A Picture Book of Harry Houdini
Written by David A. Adler and Michael S. Adler
Illustrated by Matt Collins
Harry Houdini is a subject sure to enthrall young readers. The book opens to a dramatic moment. Houdini is lowered into a tank of water. “If I fail to appear my assistants will do everything possible to save my life.” The opening captures the essence of his career: he was the most celebrated escape artist of his time.
The story is chronologically told. Fourth grade readers can follow along, from the early hardships of his life to his slowly increasing interest in magic. Nine year old Houdini performed in a five-cent circus as ‘The Prince of the Air.” At twelve, he became “Eric the Great” — an escape artist.
How did he become an expert at opening locks and freeing himself from handcuffs and barrels and locked boxes? We learn that when he was eleven he worked for the local locksmith, and soon became so good at the job that he did not need keys to open locks. Maybe that is where his expertise came from. He later became a career magician, performing impossible-seeming escape acts.
There are many biographies of The Great Houdini. The authors of this book have researched deeply into his life. The back matter lists the sources they consulted in the writing of the book. For example, although Houdini claimed that he was born in America, research unearthed his Hungarian birth certificate. And that is what makes the book interesting to young readers: ease of comprehension and knowing that the facts they read are true.