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)