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THE HOUDINI BOX by Brian Selznick


by Brian Selznick & illustrated by Brian Selznick

Age Range: 6 - 10

Pub Date: April 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-679-81429-9
Publisher: Knopf

 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)