An appealingly colorful, deadpan account of a remarkably audacious and creative criminal.



Geisel winner Pizzoli turns from early readers to biography with this story of a consummate 20th-century con man.

In the early 1900s, Robert Miller moved from Eastern Europe to Paris to pursue a university education, ending his studies when he discovered his calling as a professional gambler. Trouble forced Miller to reinvent himself as “Count Victor Lustig” and take to the high seas, where he conned passengers on ocean liners. When World War I ended trans-Atlantic travel, “Lustig” operated in several major European cities. After numerous arrests, Miller went to the United States, where he earned the trust of crime boss Al Capone and pulled off many successful scams. When the police caught on to his schemes, Miller returned to Paris, where he orchestrated his ultimate con, selling the Eiffel Tower to scrap metal dealers. Pizzoli tells this remarkable story with straightforward economy, informational sidebars offering insight into Miller’s times and crimes. The truth behind Miller’s exploits is often difficult to discern, and Pizzoli notes the research challenges in an afterword. His mixed-media graphic artwork perfectly complements the quirky, humorous tone of the story. A particularly nice touch is the use of a fingerprint to stand in for Miller’s face, most appropriate for a man who would be known by 45 different aliases.

An appealingly colorful, deadpan account of a remarkably audacious and creative criminal. (glossary, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01652-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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A ho-hum outing next to James Rumford’s first-class Traveling Man (2001).


A first-person précis of the journeys taken by the Muslim world’s greatest traveler.

Originally published in Arabic, Sharafeddine’s recast tale takes the 14th-century Ibn Battuta on a long, looping course from his home in Tangier to India, then on to China and back for visits to Grenada and Mali. Aside from the occasional storm or hyena attack, however, “his” narrative is a wearying recitation of place names hooked to vague details—“Cairo impressed me with its mosques and hospitals”—and repeated mentions of visits to local “theologians and legal scholars.” Furthermore, dates in the narrative are taken from the Christian calendar only, and the prose is sometimes inexpertly phrased: “I hired a camel to continue my journey”; “After ten years, he made me the ambassador of India in China.” The illustrations, done in a style reminiscent of Persian miniatures, feature large-eyed figures in period dress and evocative glimpses of grand architecture. These scenes are, however, integrated into maps that are so stylized that it’s seldom possible to get a clear picture of where the lands and cities are. The abrupt ending leaves readers who want to know more about Ibn Battuta to their own devices.

A ho-hum outing next to James Rumford’s first-class Traveling Man (2001). (Picture book/biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55498-480-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014

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