The Houdini Box, by Brian Selznick
The Houdini Box was one of my daughter Emily’s favorite books when she was younger — and with good reason. It’s the story of a young boy who idolizes Harry Houdini, the famous magician and escape artist. The young boy, Victor, the narrator of the story, tries to duplicate Houdini’s escapes. He fails every time, whether it’s untying himself, escaping from a locked trunk, or holding his breath as long as Houdini in his water trap escape. One day, by chance, he meets Harry Houdini at a train station. After a short conversation, Houdini gives the boy a card with his address on it. The departing Houdini promises to talk with him at more length.
Houdini boards his train, and the young boy is bursting with excitement until the appointed day comes that Houdini is scheduled to return. On that day, he goes to the address — Houdini’s house. Sadly the door is opened by a grieving Bess Houdini, who tearfully tells him that Houdini has died. However, Houdini has left a box for him — with the initials “E.W.” on it. Victor is heart-broken, not realizing who “E.W.” would be, and puts the box away, unopened.
Years later, after Victor has grown up and has a son of his own, he learns that Harry Houdini’s birth name was “Ehrich Weiss” – E.W.! He finds the long-forgotten Houdini box, and opens it … Then he ties himself up and locks himself in a trunk — that he escapes from it in under 20 seconds.
In addition to being a very nice story, both about the historical Houdini and the desire to reawaken forgotten dreams, it’s beautifully illustrated. My daughter and I both loved it, and I recommend it highly.