Funny, scary in the right moments, and offering plenty of historical facts.

HOUDINI AND ME

Catfished…by a ghost!

Harry Mancini, an 11-year-old White boy, was born and lives in Harry Houdini’s house in New York City. It’s no surprise, then, that he’s obsessed with Houdini and his escapology. Harry and his best friend, Zeke, are goofing around in some particularly stupid ways (“Because we’re idiots,” Zeke explains later) when Harry hits his head. In the aftermath of a weeklong coma, Harry finds a mysterious gift: an ancient flip phone that has no normal phone service but receives all-caps text messages from someone who identifies himself as “HOUDINI.” Harry is wary of this unseen stranger, like any intelligently skeptical 21st-century kid, but he’s eventually convinced: His phone friend is the real deal. So when Houdini asks Harry to try one of his greatest tricks, Harry agrees. Harry—so full of facts about Houdini that he litters his storytelling with infodumps, making him an enthusiastic tour guide to Houdini’s life—is easily tricked by his supportive-seeming hero. Harry, Zeke, and Houdini are all just the right amount of snarky, and while Harry’s terrifying adventure has an occasionally inconsistent voice, the humor and tension make this an appealing page-turner. Archival photographs of Harry Houdini make the ghostly visitation feel closer. Zeke is Black, and Harry Houdini, as he was in life, is a White Jewish immigrant.

Funny, scary in the right moments, and offering plenty of historical facts. (historical note, bibliography) (Supernatural adventure. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4515-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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It’s not the first time old Ben has paid our times a call, but it’s funny and free-spirited, with an informational load that...

BEN FRANKLIN'S IN MY BATHROOM!

Antics both instructive and embarrassing ensue after a mysterious package left on their doorstep brings a Founding Father into the lives of two modern children.

Summoned somehow by what looks for all the world like an old-time crystal radio set, Ben Franklin turns out to be an amiable sort. He is immediately taken in hand by 7-year-old Olive for a tour of modern wonders—early versions of which many, from electrical appliances in the kitchen to the Illinois town’s public library and fire department, he justly lays claim to inventing. Meanwhile big brother Nolan, 10, tags along, frantic to return him to his own era before either their divorced mom or snoopy classmate Tommy Tuttle sees him. Fleming, author of Ben Franklin’s Almanac (2003) (and also, not uncoincidentally considering the final scene of this outing, Our Eleanor, 2005), mixes history with humor as the great man dispenses aphorisms and reminiscences through diverse misadventures, all of which end well, before vanishing at last. Following a closing, sequel-cueing kicker (see above) she then separates facts from fancies in closing notes, with print and online leads to more of the former. To go with spot illustrations of the evidently all-white cast throughout the narrative, Fearing incorporates change-of-pace sets of sequential panels for Franklin’s biographical and scientific anecdotes. Final illustrations not seen.

It’s not the first time old Ben has paid our times a call, but it’s funny and free-spirited, with an informational load that adds flavor without weight. (Graphic/fantasy hybrid. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93406-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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