This is the first book in a proposed series of graphic-novel biographies for young readers published by the Center for Cartoon Studies in conjunction with Hyperion Press. It is meant to give just a snapshot of one moment in the life of Harry Houdini, and it delivers on its promise. By selecting one specific incident in the life of the famous magician/showman, the authors give readers a tantalizing glimpse of Houdini’s life and accomplishments. In an original graphic novel style, Houdini is shown preparing for and then executing one of his most famous stunts, a death-defying jump off of the Harvard Bridge while handcuffed. His wife, Bess, is accurately depicted as an able accomplice, and readers get a glimpse into the secrets behind Houdini’s success. Houdini loved a crowd, and the authors show how he worked his fans into a frenzy of fearful excitement. Large panels, which sometimes cross to the opposite page, along with bold illustrations showing close attention to facial expressions, add plenty of drama to the page.
Houdini’s Jewish identity is mentioned only briefly when a Boston policeman wonders aloud if it is true that the showman has horns. As he is being inspected before the stunt, Houdini rebukes the policeman by saying, “mind the horns.” A series of panel discussions round out the volume, and one of these explains Houdini’s Jewish background and the anti-Semitism that was prevalent at the time.
Fans of the graphic novel format will delight in this creative and suspenseful book, and since there have been a glut of recent books about Houdini, for both children and adults, curious readers who want a more in-depth biography will have an ample selection from which to choose. For ages 10 and up.