THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF JOHN SMITH, JR., AKA HOUDINI by Peter Johnson
Kirkus Star

THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF JOHN SMITH, JR., AKA HOUDINI

Age Range: 9 - 12

KIRKUS REVIEW

A middle-schooler writes a kids’ novel; an author writes an engaging, amiable read—and, presto, a tale about a boy nicknamed Houdini turns out magical.

When your name is John Smith, you need to have something going for you. What this 13-year-old—alas, no relation to the dude of Pocahontas fame—has is a fascination with the master escape artist. After an author’s visit to his classroom, John creates a novel, formed from the very novel kids are reading, and devises a series of lists to guide him. He also relies on adventures with his two best buds; a misunderstood Vietnam vet and his pit bull; and the neighborhood bully. By turns poignant and downright hilarious, Houdini’s story/novel is delivered in a voice that’s wonderfully authentic. Johnson expertly handles real male middle school friendships, issues and angst and doesn’t avoid some tough contemporary realities: Domestic troubles, the prospect of Dad losing his job and the pain arising from his older brother going missing in Iraq are handled realistically but sensitively.

In the end, Houdini realizes that writing has changed him and altered his perspective on people and life. Readers will feel the same way. And just try to get kids not to make their own lists or attempt their own novels. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 24th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-06-198890-5
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2011




NEW & NOTABLE BOOKS FOR CHILDREN: JANUARY 2012:

ChildrenEAST DRAGON, WEST DRAGON by Robyn Eversole
by Robyn Eversole
ChildrenANOTHER BROTHER by Matthew Cordell
by Matthew Cordell

MORE BY PETER JOHNSON

ChildrenTHE LIFE AND TIMES OF BENNY ALVAREZ by Peter Johnson
by Peter Johnson
ChildrenOUT OF EDEN by Peter Johnson
by Peter Johnson
ChildrenLOSERVILLE by Peter Johnson
by Peter Johnson

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

ChildrenTHE MISADVENTURES OF THE MAGICIAN'S DOG by Frances Sackett
by Frances Sackett
ChildrenLIAR, LIAR by Gary Paulsen
by Gary Paulsen
ChildrenFEARLESS FERNIE by Gary Soto
by Gary Soto
ChildrenWARP SPEED by Lisa Yee
by Lisa Yee