Ehrich Weiss was born in Budapest and died Harry Houdini in Detroit, having lived a rags-to-riches story that was inescapably magical.
Though Harry’s father had a law degree, was a rabbi and spoke several languages, he never seemed to find success, and Harry left home at 12 to find his way in the world. Like many children of the late 19th century, he had little education but many jobs. He was a newspaper boy, an assistant cutter in a tie factory, a shoe shiner and a messenger boy, but he escaped these dead-end jobs to find a future in magic, where there were better things to escape from: handcuffs, jails, milk cans and a Chinese Water Torture Cell. Though the cover bills this volume as “The Legend of the World’s Greatest Escape Artist,” Weaver’s narrative is straightforward and factual, never quite conveying the excitement and magic of her subject. The unusual mix of original art and archival material—photographs, promotional posters and playbills—is bolstered by effective sidebars that offer historical context for the narrative. A section of references and resources will lead young readers to good books and websites that will help bring Houdini’s magic to life more effectively than the text does by itself.
Overall, a solid-enough introduction to Houdini; good escapist reading that should lead to more. (source notes, index) (Biography. 8-12)