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)

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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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HELLO, HARVEST MOON

As atmospheric as its companion, Twilight Comes Twice, this tone poem pairs poetically intense writing with luminescent oils featuring widely spaced houses, open lawns, and clumps of autumnal trees, all lit by a huge full moon. Fletcher tracks that moon’s nocturnal path in language rich in metaphor: “With silent slippers / it climbs the night stairs,” “staining earth and sky with a ghostly glow,” lighting up a child’s bedroom, the wings of a small plane, moonflowers, and, ranging further afield, harbor waves and the shells of turtle hatchlings on a beach. Using creamy brushwork and subtly muted colors, Kiesler depicts each landscape, each night creature from Luna moths to a sleepless child and her cat, as well as the great moon sweeping across star-flecked skies, from varied but never vertiginous angles. Closing with moonset, as dawn illuminates the world with a different kind of light, this makes peaceful reading either in season, or on any moonlit night. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2003

ISBN: 0-618-16451-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2003

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WILD, WILD WOLVES

At ``Step 2'' in the useful ``Step into Reading'' series: an admirably clear, well-balanced presentation that centers on wolves' habits and pack structure. Milton also addresses their endangered status, as well as their place in fantasy, folklore, and the popular imagination. Attractive realistic watercolors on almost every page. Top-notch: concise, but remarkably extensive in its coverage. A real bargain. (Nonfiction/Easy reader. 6-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-679-91052-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1992

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