The Magician’s Fire

Simon Nichol­son
  • Review
By – March 30, 2015

Who hasn’t heard of the great Har­ry Hou­di­ni? But has any­one had a peek into what he may have been like as a young teen liv­ing in Man­hat­tan in 1886? That is the focus of this fic­tion sto­ry very loose­ly based on Houdini’s youth and the start of a new series. Accom­pa­nied by his two friends, Arthur and Bil­lie, Har­ry is quick­ly enmeshed in adven­ture after adven­ture. For dif­fer­ent rea­sons, each of them has been aban­doned. Arthur is a rich kid whose moth­er has died. His father is not inter­est­ed in him and leaves him for six months at a time while doing busi­ness. Bil­lie is a street urchin who has tried mul­ti­ple jobs but has been unsuc­cess­ful find­ing real work. Har­ry was shipped to the U.S. alone when pover­ty destroyed his fam­i­ly. He has tried to make mon­ey as a shoe shine boy. Togeth­er they face the world, each bring­ing spe­cial tal­ents to the rela­tion­ship. Arthur and Bil­lie are the pub­lic rela­tions crew, cre­ators and eval­u­a­tors of the schemes Har­ry per­forms, and his sup­port team. 

The book begins as Har­ry escapes from an oncom­ing train. But then their good friend Her­bie, an elder­ly magi­cian, dis­ap­pears. The rest of the book is about how the three friends find him. It is a page turn­er. One of the impor­tant mes­sages of the book is the impor­tance of team work. At one point, Har­ry tries to go it alone” and dis­cov­ers this is a very bad idea. 

Houdini’s Jew­ish back­ground is not addressed but some read­ers who are already famil­iar with Har­ry Houdini’s life and career may enjoy this fun, fic­tion­al­ized treat­ment of their hero hav­ing youth­ful adventures. 

Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 8 – 12

Mar­ci Lavine Bloch earned her MLS from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land, a BA from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia and an MA in Eng­lish Lit­er­a­ture from Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty. She has worked in syn­a­gogue and day school libraries and is cur­rent­ly fin­ish­ing her term on the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Award Committee.

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