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.