The Houdini Box

( 4 )

Overview


Open this book and come face-to-face with the greatest magician of all time: Harry Houdini!

Victor is forever trying to escape from locked trunks, to walk through walls, and to perform any number of Houdini's astonishing magic tricks...without success. Then — amazingly — he meets his idol and begs Houdini to explain himself. A mysterious, locked box is the only answer, and ...

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Overview


Open this book and come face-to-face with the greatest magician of all time: Harry Houdini!

Victor is forever trying to escape from locked trunks, to walk through walls, and to perform any number of Houdini's astonishing magic tricks...without success. Then — amazingly — he meets his idol and begs Houdini to explain himself. A mysterious, locked box is the only answer, and Victor is left to wonder: Does the box contain the secrets of the most famous magic tricks ever performed?

From the creator of the Caldecott Medal-winning bestseller The Invention of Hugo Cabret comes this magical storybook that combines captivating mystery with mesmerizing historical fiction. Now, as a bonus at the end of the book, you will find a biographical note about Houdini, an illustrated magic trick, never-before-seen sketches by Brian Selznick, and more. The Houdini Box conjures up the pure pleasure of an old-time magic show.

A chance encounter with Harry Houdini leaves a small boy in possession of a mysterious box--one that might hold the secrets to the greatest magic tricks ever performed.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In his arresting, informative blend of fact and fiction, Selznick splendidly captures the sense of wonder surrounding Houdini." — Publishers Weekly

"Crosshatched pencil drawings expertly capture the story's droller moments, as well as Victor's changing expressions....This brief story has an appeal beyond its reading level." — School Library Journal

"Selznick illustrates his first book with vigorous, carefully composed black-and-white drawings; his faces express emotion with subtlety and quiet humor. The offbeat story is smoothly told...." — Kirkus Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In his first book for children, Selznick presents the compelling story of Harry Houdini, the magician who amazed the world with his great escapes. While Houdini circles the globe performing one incredible stunt after another, Victor, a young devotee, goes through his own rigorous magician's training at home--locking himself in closets, holding his breath under water, walking into walls. This counterpoint is a witty, effective device, and Selznick's deadpan text makes the most of it. It seems that Victor will never become a magician, until one day, after a chance encounter with his hero, he receives a special box that just might contain the secrets of Houdini's success. In his arresting, informative blend of fact and fiction, Selznick splendidly captures the sense of wonder that surrounded Houdini. Equally impressive are his evocative drawings; by turns droll, touching and downright silly, they bring added vitality to a captivating book. More than anything, however, this ambitious work teaches the importance of faith and the ability to believe in the impossible. Ages 6-11. (Apr.)
Children's Literature
Magicians can do anything. They can make candy appear and parents disappear. Victor, aged ten, wants to be a magician. He tries to duplicate the tricks of the great magician, Houdini, by locking himself in his grandmother's trunk, but his mother has to rescue him. He submerges himself in bathtub water and tries to count to five thousand, but his mother makes him get out and breathe. His success at walking through walls isn't any better. Then, a chance meeting with the real Houdini leads Victor to a box containing the secrets to the famous man's greatest tricks. Is it a hoax? This brief but cleverly engaging story follows Victor to adulthood before revealing the entertaining answer. While plenty of young readers will enjoy the tale by themselves, its subtle wit begs to be read aloud. The bold crosshatch pencil drawings depict dramatic enlargements and perspectives that accent the intrigue as well as the humor. Magicians and mystery lovers of all ages will enjoy this well-told, visually satisfying story. Additional information about Houdini is provided. 2001 (orig. 1991), Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, $17.00. Ages 6 up. Reviewer:Betty Hicks
School Library Journal
Gr 2-5-- Ten-year-old Victor has no success emulating his hero, Harry Houdini; no matter how hard or often he tries, he just can't escape from a locked trunk, or hold his breath underwater for 5000 seconds, or run through walls. Then he meets the magician himself in a crowded train station, and some time later receives a mysterious locked box engraved with the initials ``E. W.'' Victor can't imagine who E. W. is and, disappointed, puts the box away. Years later, after Victor grows up and has a son of his own, he learns that Houdini's real name was Ehrich Weiss; he rushes home, opens the box, and that night, while his wife and child lie asleep, he locks himself in the trunk--and escapes in less than 20 seconds. Crosshatched pencil drawings expertly capture the story's droller moments, as well as Victor's changing expressions; details of dress and furnishings, plus dramatic posters on the endpapers, give this a period look and, appropriately, a slightly sentimental flavor. A capsule biography of Houdini is appended. This brief story has an appeal beyond its reading level. --John Peters, New York Public Library
School Library Journal

Gr 3-5

Selznick reintroduces The Houdini Box , originally published in 1991 (Knopf). In the story, young Victor, a would-be magician, encounters his hero Harry Houdini and is given a prize box belonging to the famous man. Years later, the boy makes an amazing discovery, enabling him to perform an escape trick on his own. In this new edition, Selznick follows his intriguing tale with bonus material: a biographical note on Houdini, an illustrated magic trick, research notes on the writing of the book, and early sketches for the artwork. Libraries not holding the earlier book will want to consider adding this edition as it is sure to intrigue youngsters, particularly those interested in magic.-Barbara Elleman, Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, MA

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416968788
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 10/7/2008
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 80
  • Sales rank: 725,287
  • Age range: 7 - 10 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 7.22 (h) x 0.52 (d)

Meet the Author

Brian Selznick

Brian Selznick is the author and illustrator of the bestselling The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which was awarded the Caldecott Medal and was a National Book Award finalist. He is also the illustrator of many books for children, including Frindle and Lunch Money by Andrew Clements, as well as the Doll People trilogy by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin, and The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins by Barbara Kerley, which was a Caldecott Honor Book. Mr. Selznick divides his time between Brooklyn, New York, and San Diego, California.

Brian Selznick is the author and illustrator of the bestselling The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which was awarded the Caldecott Medal and was a National Book Award finalist. He is also the illustrator of many books for children, including Frindle and Lunch Money by Andrew Clements, as well as the Doll People trilogy by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin, and The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins by Barbara Kerley, which was a Caldecott Honor Book. Mr. Selznick divides his time between Brooklyn, New York, and San Diego, California.

Biography

Multi-award-winning illustrator Brian Selznick was born in New Jersey in 1966. His interest in art began at an early age: His family claims that on visits to his grandmother, three-year-old Brian would fashion dinosaur sculptures out of tinfoil he'd been given to keep him out of trouble. "Even in kindergarten," Selznick recalled in an interview with Scholastic Books, " I remember drawing and having the other kids gather around because they liked what I was drawing." He took art classes after school and studied at The Rhode Island School of Design.

Although he thought he wanted a career in theatrical set design, after graduation Selznick decided he would like to try illustrating children's books. He went to work for a prominent (now defunct) Manhattan bookstore called Eeyore's, where he learned about the business and put his art to use painting the windows for holidays and special events. Around this time, he wrote and illustrated his first children's book, The Houdini Box. His manager and mentor at Eeyore's helped find him a publisher. The book came out in 1991, while Selznick was still working at the store.

Since then, Selznick has illustrated many other award-winning children's books, including Andrew Clements's Frindle, Pam Muñoz Ryan's When Marian Sang, and Barbara Kerley's The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins. But his crowning masterpiece is an ambitious project entirely of his own creation, a groundbreaking 500-page tour de force that combines the elements of a picture book, graphic novel, and film. Published in 2007, The Invention of Hugo Cabret follows the adventures of an orphan who secretly lives in the walls of a Paris train station, as he tries to complete a mysterious invention left by his father. Intricate, innovative, and utterly spellbinding, the story was nominated for a National Book Award and received the coveted Caldecott Medal, America's top prize for children's illustration.

Selznick divides his time between Brooklyn, New York, and San Diego, California.

Good To Know

  • Selznick is a first cousin, once removed, of iconic Hollywood producer David O. Selznick
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret is the first full-length novel to receive the Caldecott Medal.
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    Customer Reviews

    Average Rating 4.5
    ( 4 )
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    Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
    • Anonymous

      Posted August 16, 2009

      I Also Recommend:

      Not as inventive as Hugo Cabret

      Illustrations are great, but story is lacking. I am 10 and loooooved Hugo Cabret. Even as thick as it is, I read it all in a day and a half. I was looking forward to this Selznick installment, but it fell short. Quick, easy reading, but just not very captivating. Thought the ending fell flat. Not giving up on Selznick, yet, but disappointed in this one.

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    • Posted February 11, 2009

      I Also Recommend:

      Fabulous for Hugo Cabret Fans!!

      There's just something about the illustrations and how they enliven the story. My 9 y.o. (who loves to read . . .) has picked this up and gone through it again several times.

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted October 24, 2010

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    • Anonymous

      Posted January 21, 2010

      No text was provided for this review.

    Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews

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