In Houdini, Biskup and Kinsella present a graphic b iography of Ehrich Weiss, aka Harry Houdini, who was fascinated by magic and dreamt as a child of being a great magician. Using beautifully inscribed illustrations in black, white, and tan colors that place this firmly in the early 1900’s, Biskup relates how Houdini got his start as a magician when he was spotted by Martin Beck, who ran a vaudeville circuit, and some of his daring magic acts. The book relates how his acts became more and more daring as the need to impress and stun his audiences increased. In one he escaped from a sealed can filled with water. He emerged from a giant sealed paper envelope without tearing it, a boiler that had been welded shut and from a giant football. In another stunt, he escaped from a straitjacket while suspended upside down from a tall building. It seemed there was nothing he could not escape. Apart from being an escape artist par excellence, Houdini also worked as his own publicist by giving interviews, writing books and articles, distributing free, printed flyers, and starring in a few films. Thanks to his stunts and his mastery of publicity, he quickly became the highest paid performer in vaudeville, famous the world over. It’s ironic, then, that he should meet his end in such an easily escapable fashion. In 1926, while on a performing tour, he met a few students in his dressing room before a performance. One student dared him to take ‘body hits’ without being hurt, and began punching him in the abdomen. The punches may have contributed to Houdini’s death of appendicitis at the age of 52. Biskup relates Houdini’s life story with admiration, in a tone that is largely matter-of-fact. Though the book is a quick read, it holds the attention throughout its 32 pages and whets the appetite for more information on the world’s greatest escape artist. For ages 8 – 12.
Lauren Kramer is a Vancouver-based journalist, wife, and mother with a lifelong passion for literature. Born in Cape Town, South Africa, she has won awards for her writing and reported from many corners of the world. Read more of her work at www.laurenkramer.net.