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An appealingly colorful, deadpan account of a remarkably audacious and creative criminal.

Geisel winner Pizzoli turns from early readers to biography with this story of a consummate 20th-century con man.

In the early 1900s, Robert Miller moved from Eastern Europe to Paris to pursue a university education, ending his studies when he discovered his calling as a professional gambler. Trouble forced Miller to reinvent himself as “Count Victor Lustig” and take to the high seas, where he conned passengers on ocean liners. When World War I ended trans-Atlantic travel, “Lustig” operated in several major European cities. After numerous arrests, Miller went to the United States, where he earned the trust of crime boss Al Capone and pulled off many successful scams. When the police caught on to his schemes, Miller returned to Paris, where he orchestrated his ultimate con, selling the Eiffel Tower to scrap metal dealers. Pizzoli tells this remarkable story with straightforward economy, informational sidebars offering insight into Miller’s times and crimes. The truth behind Miller’s exploits is often difficult to discern, and Pizzoli notes the research challenges in an afterword. His mixed-media graphic artwork perfectly complements the quirky, humorous tone of the story. A particularly nice touch is the use of a fingerprint to stand in for Miller’s face, most appropriate for a man who would be known by 45 different aliases.

An appealingly colorful, deadpan account of a remarkably audacious and creative criminal. (glossary, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01652-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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Throughout my young days at school and just afterwards a number of things happened to me that I have never forgotten. . . . Some are funny. Some are painful. Some are unpleasant. I suppose that is why I have always remembered them so vividly." Vividly indeed: with the intimate, confiding tone of a born storyteller, Dahl turns each of his family/school memories into a miniature adventure, thriller, or horror-story—with the earthy emphasis on pleasure (food, comradeship), fear, and pain. After a brief, charming slice of family-history, explaining how his Norwegian parents came to live and prosper in Wales, Dahl gets right down to business. From the years at Llandaff Cathedral School (ages 7-9, 1923-25), there's a candy-by-candy tribute to the local sweet-shop, site of "The Great Mouse Plot": Roald and friends, fed up with the meanness of filthy sweet-shop-owner Mrs. Pratchett, secretly put a dead mouse in the Gobstopper jar—but suffered mightily for their glorious prank. (Mrs. P. reported the crime to the Headmaster—unleashing the first of many school-career canings, all described in gruesome, technicolor detail.) Summer vacations in Norway are also recalled in a mixture of ecstasy—the fish, the scenery—and agony: an operation for adenoid removal without any anesthetic. And the extremes of pleasure and pain continue through Dahl's years at two English boarding schools: homesickness, sadistic Matrons and Masters, practical jokes, the indignities of "fagging" (warming up the toilet-seat for older boys), chocolates. . . and, always, the dreaded Headmaster's cane. ("By now I am sure you will be wondering why I lay so much emphasis upon school beatings in these pages. The answer is that. . . I couldn't get over it. I never have got over it.") Some readers may be put off by Dahl's style here—chatty, bedtime-story-ish, deceptively avuncular. Others might not take to the British references (no special explanations for a US audience), or the particularly British approach—full of bitter humor and odd relish—to grisly, gory matters. But those who've appreciated Dahl in various forms will find both the master of chills and the lover of chocolate here—in a fine, juicy collage of funny/awful boyhood highlights.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1984

ISBN: 0374373744

Page Count: -

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1984

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