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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1991


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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1992


Trickling, bubbling, swirling, rushing, a river flows down from its mountain beginnings, past peaceful country and bustling city on its way to the sea. Hooper (The Drop in My Drink, 1998, etc.) artfully evokes the water’s changing character as it transforms from “milky-cold / rattling-bold” to a wide, slow “sliding past mudflats / looping through marshes” to the end of its journey. Willey, best known for illustrating Geraldine McCaughrean’s spectacular folk-tale collections, contributes finely detailed scenes crafted in shimmering, intricate blues and greens, capturing mountain’s chill, the bucolic serenity of passing pastures, and a sense of mystery in the water’s shadowy depths. Though Hooper refers to “the cans and cartons / and bits of old wood” being swept along, there’s no direct conservation agenda here (for that, see Debby Atwell’s River, 1999), just appreciation for the river’s beauty and being. (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7636-0792-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2000

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