Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini, by Sid Fleischman
Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini is a very well-done biography of Harry Houdini aimed at middle school-aged children (grades 4-8). It is written by Sid Fleischman, a Newberry Award-winning author – as well as a magician, who was fortunate enough to have had a friendship with Houdini’s widow, Bess, later in her life. It is an affectionate biography, written by someone who despite his obvious admiration for his subject, doesn’t overlook his various faults, such as his egotism and his overpowering drive to be the best. It’s a balanced biography, showing his generosity, his closeness to his family, and his doting on his mother.
Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini is a very readable book, illustrated with dozens of photographs. My twelve-year-old daughter devoured the book, and I have to admit that I enjoyed it as well. I strongly recommend it for anyone with middle school-aged children.
Table of contents for Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini
- Preface: Sleuthing the Houdini Story
- He was born, but where?
- From rags to rags
- King of the necktie cutters
- The Pygmalion of East 69th Street
- Dressing up the act
- Magic for sale!
- Mr. Beck beckons
- Don’t walk on the grass
- The Queen’s dress
- The Siberian mystery
- The ink-stained wretch
- The life expectancy of an eggshell
- Unmasking an icon
- Walking through a brick wall
- One elephant to go
- The movie star
- The man who fooled Sherlock Holmes
- The phantom follies
- The pajama pocket
- Digging around in Houdini’s past
About the author
Sid Fleischman wrote more than sixty books for children, adults, and magicians. Among his many awards was the Newbery Medal for his novel The Whipping Boy. The author described his wasted youth as a magician and newspaperman in his autobiography The Abracadabra Kid. His other titles include The Entertainer and the Dybbuk, a novel, and three biographies, Sir Charlie: Chaplin, The Funniest Man in the World; The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West; and Escape! The Story of The Great Houdini.