Before Dynamo, Criss Angel, David Blaine and Derren Brown there was Erik Weisz. Better known as Harry Houdini, Weisz was one of the greatest illusionists to ever have lived and his seemingly impossible feats still baffle the world today.
When a little Jewish boy moved to America at the age of just four he was ready to seize all of the opportunities on offer. But life was hard, his parents could not afford his studies and the street performers became his education. Mastering the trapeze and learning card-tricks was fun but it was not enough to impress his audience. But his lock-picking skills, learnt whilst working as a locksmith, would amaze. Harry Houdini - escape artist - had been born and there was no chain, padlock or handcuff strong enough to keep this entertainer trapped…
Lots of kids love magic, there is something utterly compelling about seeing the impossible happen before our very eyes and Harry Houdini was one of the best at wowing his audiences. His life story, that is delightfully captured in this enthralling picture book biography, is magical in every sense.
Like many immigrants, Harry Houdini thought his family’s migration from Hungary to America would provide the opportunities he never had at home but life was far from easy. The family lived in poverty and the streets were not paved with gold. What were on the streets though were performers, and these would change Harry’s life forever.
Houdini’s story from immigrant to street performer to global entertainment superstar is thoroughly enjoyable but what will really capture children’s imaginations are his incredible tricks. His ability to make elephants disappear, survive being buried alive, escape from the belly of a whale and to break out of countless locks and restraints are what will leave readers mesmerised. One of his more useful tricks and something I had never heard of before was teaching soldiers how to escape from restraints if they were ever captured during the war.
The secret world of magic is a difficult one to enter and many would try to discourage one from choosing it as a career path. For those children who do have magic in their heart and love performing impossible feats and illusions, Harry Houdini is an incredible example to have and provides encouragement for young performers.
Delightfully illustrated with bright and bold artwork and with a story told in short and simple sentences, this is a magical read about the man who entertained the masses and proved that the impossible is possible. At the back of the book there is a short overview of his life which includes key facts and dates and a historical timeline featuring photographs.
With thanks to Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara and Frances Lincoln Children’s Books for the copy that was received through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Recommended for 5+.