THE HOUDINI BOX

A fervent admirer of Houdini, ten-year-old Victor tries to emulate his feats, but to no avail: getting out of locked trunks and holding his breath for 5000 seconds are beyond his powers. Spying Houdini himself in a railroad station, he begs for his secrets and is promised a letter. Eventually, it arrives: ``A thousand secrets await you. Come to my house....'' But it's the day of Houdini's death; the grieving widow hands Victor a locked box with the initials E.W. Unable to open the box, and concluding that it couldn't have belonged to the great magician anyway, Victor forgets it until years later when, playing baseball with his son Harry, the ball happens to land on Houdini's grave and he learns his original name: Ehrich Weiss. And that night, Victor at last succeeds in escaping from his grandmother's trunk. Selznick illustrates his first book with vigorous, carefully composed b&w drawings; his faces express emotion with subtlety and quiet humor. The offbeat story is smoothly told; whether children will be pleased by the understated denouement with its ghostly overtones remains to be seen. In any case, it's an interesting debut, handsomely produced. A historical note is appended. (Fiction/Young Reader. 6-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-679-81429-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1991

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TOMAS AND THE LIBRARY LADY

A charming, true story about the encounter between the boy who would become chancellor at the University of California at Riverside and a librarian in Iowa. Tom†s Rivera, child of migrant laborers, picks crops in Iowa in the summer and Texas in the winter, traveling from place to place in a worn old car. When he is not helping in the fields, Tom†s likes to hear Papa Grande's stories, which he knows by heart. Papa Grande sends him to the library downtown for new stories, but Tom†s finds the building intimidating. The librarian welcomes him, inviting him in for a cool drink of water and a book. Tom†s reads until the library closes, and leaves with books checked out on the librarian's own card. For the rest of the summer, he shares books and stories with his family, and teaches the librarian some Spanish. At the end of the season, there are big hugs and a gift exchange: sweet bread from Tom†s's mother and a shiny new book from the librarianto keep. Col¢n's dreamy illustrations capture the brief friendship and its life-altering effects in soft earth tones, using round sculptured shapes that often depict the boy right in the middle of whatever story realm he's entered. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-80401-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1997

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THE BEST CHEF IN SECOND GRADE

An impending school visit by a celebrity chef sends budding cook Ollie into a tailspin. He and his classmates are supposed to bring a favorite family food for show and tell, but his family doesn’t have a clear choice—besides, his little sister Rosy doesn’t like much of anything. What to do? As in their previous two visits to Room 75, Kenah builds suspense while keeping the tone light, and Carter adds both bright notes of color and familiar home and school settings in her cartoon illustrations. Eventually, Ollie winkles favorite ingredients out of his clan, which he combines into a mac-and-cheese casserole with a face on top that draws delighted praise from the class’s renowned guest. As Ollie seems to do his kitchen work without parental assistance, a cautionary tip or two (and maybe a recipe) might not have gone amiss here, but the episode’s mouthwatering climax and resolution will guarantee smiles of contentment all around. (Easy reader. 6-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-06-053561-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2007

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