HOUDINI

WORLD’S GREATEST MYSTERY MAN AND ESCAPE KING

Still a name with which to conjure, Houdini left swaths of his past and his techniques shrouded in mystery—but here veteran biographer Krull peeks behind the curtain for glimpses of his life, his feats and his character. It’s that character that comes through most clearly; “fierce about his craft,” Houdini dedicated himself to perfecting his escapes—several of which get blow-by-blow, present-tense recaps that invite readers to share the audience’s amazement—while polishing his legend and, as he quipped, “making an honest million.” In smoothly accomplished oils, Velasquez frames much of the tale as a stage performance narrated by an announcer in top hat and tails; adding posters and other evocative details to the settings, the artist accurately depicts the magician, his wife and many of the trunks, cases, shackles and other constraints from which he escaped with (seeming) ease. Budding magicians won’t find more than hints here of how Houdini did it, but a tempting set of print and digital resources caps this perceptive and dramatic tribute. (bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-8027-8953-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2005

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26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE

            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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DORY STORY

Who is next in the ocean food chain? Pallotta has a surprising answer in this picture book glimpse of one curious boy. Danny, fascinated by plankton, takes his dory and rows out into the ocean, where he sees shrimp eating those plankton, fish sand eels eating shrimp, mackerel eating fish sand eels, bluefish chasing mackerel, tuna after bluefish, and killer whales after tuna. When an enormous humpbacked whale arrives on the scene, Danny’s dory tips over and he has to swim for a large rock or become—he worries’someone’s lunch. Surreal acrylic illustrations in vivid blues and red extend the story of a small boy, a small boat, and a vast ocean, in which the laws of the food chain are paramount. That the boy has been bathtub-bound during this entire imaginative foray doesn’t diminish the suspense, and the facts Pallotta presents are solidly researched. A charming fish tale about the one—the boy—that got away. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-88106-075-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2000

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