Hou­di­ni: The Life of the Great Escape Artist

Agniesz­ka Biskup; Pat Kin­sel­la, illus.
  • Review
By – August 31, 2011
In Hou­di­ni, Biskup and Kin­sel­la present a graph­ic b iog­ra­phy of Ehrich Weiss, aka Har­ry Hou­di­ni, who was fas­ci­nat­ed by mag­ic and dreamt as a child of being a great magi­cian. Using beau­ti­ful­ly inscribed illus­tra­tions in black, white, and tan col­ors that place this firm­ly in the ear­ly 1900’s, Biskup relates how Hou­di­ni got his start as a magi­cian when he was spot­ted by Mar­tin Beck, who ran a vaude­ville cir­cuit, and some of his dar­ing mag­ic acts. The book relates how his acts became more and more dar­ing as the need to impress and stun his audi­ences increased. In one he escaped from a sealed can filled with water. He emerged from a giant sealed paper enve­lope with­out tear­ing it, a boil­er that had been weld­ed shut and from a giant foot­ball. In anoth­er stunt, he escaped from a strait­jack­et while sus­pend­ed upside down from a tall build­ing. It seemed there was noth­ing he could not escape. Apart from being an escape artist par excel­lence, Hou­di­ni also worked as his own pub­li­cist by giv­ing inter­views, writ­ing books and arti­cles, dis­trib­ut­ing free, print­ed fly­ers, and star­ring in a few films. Thanks to his stunts and his mas­tery of pub­lic­i­ty, he quick­ly became the high­est paid per­former in vaude­ville, famous the world over. It’s iron­ic, then, that he should meet his end in such an eas­i­ly escapable fash­ion. In 1926, while on a per­form­ing tour, he met a few stu­dents in his dress­ing room before a per­for­mance. One stu­dent dared him to take body hits’ with­out being hurt, and began punch­ing him in the abdomen. The punch­es may have con­tributed to Houdini’s death of appen­dici­tis at the age of 52. Biskup relates Houdini’s life sto­ry with admi­ra­tion, in a tone that is large­ly mat­ter-of-fact. Though the book is a quick read, it holds the atten­tion through­out its 32 pages and whets the appetite for more infor­ma­tion on the world’s great­est escape artist. For ages 8 – 12
Lau­ren Kramer is a Van­cou­ver-based jour­nal­ist, wife, and moth­er with a life­long pas­sion for lit­er­a­ture. Born in Cape Town, South Africa, she has won awards for her writ­ing and report­ed from many cor­ners of the world. Read more of her work at www​.lau​renkramer​.net.

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