HOUDINI

THE HANDCUFF KING

Compelling black-and-white illustrations galvanize a moment in the life of revered magician Harry Houdini. Lutes explores the events up to and around Houdini’s infamous 1908 feat: a daring jump from Harvard Bridge in which his hands and feet are bound in handcuffs. Though Lutes offers an examination of Houdini’s masterful dedication to his craft, he also gives attention to some of the more serious issues in Houdini’s life, including his devotion to his wife Bess, his commitment to science and disproving spiritual fraud and his encounters with anti-Semitism. Bertozzi’s illustrations are simply spectacular, with many panels fluidly conveying motion and sound solely through his captivating art. There are many wordless passages that never fail to move the plot along and mesmerize the reader. As Glen David Gold forewarns in the introduction, this book may lend itself to multiple readings; and with helpful “panel notes” and bibliography, young readers are sure to investigate this fascinating life further. A straightforward snapshot in the life of renowned magician Harry Houdini, and a glimpse into a life of determination and perseverance. (Graphic format/biography. 11-15)

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-7868-3902-3

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2007

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PEAK

Dare-devil mountain-climber Peak Marcello (14), decides to scale the Woolworth Building and lands in jail. To save him, his long-lost Everest-trekking dad appears with a plan for the duo to make a life in Katmandu—a smokescreen to make Peak become the youngest person in history to summit Mount Everest. Peak must learn to navigate the extreme and exotic terrain but negotiate a code of ethics among men. This and other elements such as the return of the long-lost father, bite-size chunks of information about climbing and altitude, an all-male cast, competition and suspense (can Peak be the youngest ever to summit Everest, and can he beat out a 14-year-old Nepalese boy who accompanies him?) creates the tough stuff of a “boys read.” The narrative offers enough of a bumpy ride to satisfy thrill seekers, while Peak’s softer reflective quality lends depth and some—but not too much—emotional resonance. Teachers will want to pair this with Mark Pfetzer’s Within Reach: My Everest Story (1998). (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-15-202417-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2007

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Without that frame, this would have been a fine addition to the wacked-out summer-camp subgenre.

I HAVE A BAD FEELING ABOUT THIS

Survival camp? How can you not have bad feelings about that?

Sixteen-year-old nerd (or geek, but not dork) Henry Lambert has no desire to go to Strongwoods Survival Camp. His father thinks it might help Henry man up and free him of some of his odd phobias. Randy, Henry’s best friend since kindergarten, is excited at the prospect of going thanks to the camp’s promotional YouTube video, so Henry relents. When they arrive at the shabby camp in the middle of nowhere and meet the possibly insane counselor (and only staff member), Max, Henry’s bad feelings multiply. Max tries to train his five campers with a combination of carrot and stick, but the boys are not athletes, let alone survivalists. When a trio of gangsters drops in on the camp Games to try to collect the debt owed by the owner, the boys suddenly have to put their skills to the test. Too bad they don’t have any—at all. Strand’s summer-camp farce is peopled with sarcastic losers who’re chatty and wry. It’s often funny, and the gags turn in unexpected directions and would do Saturday Night Live skits proud. However, the story’s flow is hampered by an unnecessary and completely unfunny frame that takes place during the premier of the movie the boys make of their experience. The repeated intrusions bring the narrative to a screeching halt.

Without that frame, this would have been a fine addition to the wacked-out summer-camp subgenre. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4022-8455-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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