A Spot­light for Harry

  • Review
By – November 1, 2011
Erich Weiss, more com­mon­ly known as Har­ry Hou­di­ni, appar­ent­ly deter­mined to become a per­former as a young child. A Spot­light for Har­ry presents a fic­tion­al ver­sion of Houdini’s begin­nings as an escape artist. In Eric Kimmel’s com­pelling ear­ly grade nov­el, young Har­ry attends a cir­cus per­for­mance with his fam­i­ly, and is imme­di­ate­ly spell­bound. He and his younger broth­er Dez­so (“Dash”) arrange to use a neighbor’s barn and rig them­selves a tightrope. Through deter­mi­na­tion and lots of prac­tice they learn to walk it; then Har­ry is ready to try anoth­er trick. After he hurts him­self, he learns anoth­er valu­able les­son about per­form­ing — all is not as it appears. Kim­mel por­trays Rab­bi and Mrs. Weiss as warm and fair­ly easy-going, in con­trast to most biogra­phies of Hou­di­ni. Young read­ers will quick­ly grasp how Har­ry and Dash apply the lessons of per­sis­tence and con­fi­dence taught to them by the cir­cus per­former they befriend. Some chil­dren may be a lit­tle con­fused by the Weiss fam­i­ly speak­ing Ger­man though they are from Hun­gary. The author’s note explains that the sto­ry is based on events from Houdini’s life. Sources of addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion would have been help­ful for read­ers whose inter­est is piqued, espe­cial­ly as this ter­rif­ic book is like­ly to cre­ate lots of inter­est in the life of the great Har­ry Hou­di­ni. Ages 7 – 10.
Mar­ci Lavine Bloch earned her MLS from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land, a BA from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia and an MA in Eng­lish Lit­er­a­ture from Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty. She has worked in syn­a­gogue and day school libraries and is cur­rent­ly fin­ish­ing her term on the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Award Committee.

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