Monday, November 28, 2011

The Life of the Great Escape Artist: Houdini

Biskup, Agnieszka. The Life of the Great Escape Artist: Houdini 
Capstone Publishers  2011  32p   21.99 978-1-4296-5474-6  
elm/ms      Graphic-non-fiction  
Harry Houdini was the greatest magician and escape artist of his me. 
In graphic format, this biography summarizes his life and accomplishments.
Nearly 100 years after his death, Harry Houdini’s legend remains very
much alive.  
    The graphic format will appeal to most readers, as well as high-low
audiences, though some may object to the bland coloring, used perhaps, to create
a sepia effect.  Flashback is used effectively to provide connection between
topics focusing on various aspects of Houdini’s life.  Included is how Ehrich
Weiss evolved into a professional entertainer and why he selected the stage name of Harry Houdini. Eventually Houdini became the highest paid performer in
vaudeville. Biskup admits that people still don’t know exactly how Houdini
performed some of his stunts, and that many of these were death-defying and
genuinely dangerous.  The writer also points out that Houdini never claimed to
use “real” magic, and preferred to be admired for his “creativity, courage, and
strength.”  Houdini went out of his way to expose swindlers and cheats.
     Nineteen terms are included in the glossary, which does not use a standard
pronunciation guide (for example “spiritualist,” is “SPIHR-uh-choo-uhl-ist”). 
This does not reinforce standard dictionary skills.  However, aside from this
small failing, the volume’s overall appeal, attractive format, and informative
text will see this book flying off the shelves.
            Welliver, Hilary


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