HOUDINI by Clinton Cox

HOUDINI

Master of Illusion
Age Range: 11 - 15
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Among the outpouring of new releases and reprints on the life of Houdini comes Cox’s (African American Teachers, not reviewed, etc.) biography with only Houdini’s piercing eyes, now a symbol of the man still known as the world’s greatest magician, gracing the cover. Born Ehrich Weiss in Budapest, Hungary, in 1874, Houdini and his family moved to the US in 1876. He grew up in poverty, until he bought a secondhand copy of the memoirs of Robert-Houdin, a famous magician of his time, and the rest, as the saying goes, was history. Cox reveals a man who, obsessed with breaking away from poverty and becoming famous, literally renamed himself and maintained a personal façade as illusive as his magic acts. Houdini’s obsessive personality carried over into his relationships, particularly with his mother, and because he was uneducated, it led him to develop an extensive library of magic books, letters, and other realia. Later in life, it served him to discredit fake mediums, eventually leading up to testimony before Congress. And of course it was his obsessive nature that drove him to dream up new acts, train athletically, and perform death-defying stunts, all to the detriment of his health. What will really keep readers turning the pages are Cox’s descriptions of Houdini’s legendary feats, including the Metamorphosis, Milk Can Escape, and the Vanishing Elephant, and his genius as an escape artist. Cox sparks additional interest through depictions of the political sentiments of the time, such as the rampant discrimination the Jewish Houdini experienced throughout pre-WWI Europe. Gleaning information from Houdini’s journals (perhaps Houdini’s only truthful statements about himself) and primary sources from the time period, Cox presents a well-researched and fascinating account of a man whose life continues to mystify us. (b&w photographs, bibliography, index) (Biography. 11-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-590-94960-8
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Scholastic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2001




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