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Houdini: The Handcuff King

by Jason Lutes
Illustrated by Nick Bertozzi

Published by Hyperion, 2007
81 pages
ISBN: 0786839023

Age 10 and older

Podcast featuring this book

On May 1, 1908, Harry Houdini, locked into handcuffs and leg irons, leapt from the Harvard Bridge in Cambridge, Massachusetts, into the frigid water of the Charles River. This book’s graphic novel format is perfectly suited to capture the tension of Houdini’s escape, as a series of panels visually draw out the suspense as the seconds tick by. Apprehension, doubt, and anticipation on the spectators’ faces contrast with scenes of the magician working alone in inky water to unlock the handcuffs before his breath gives out. For those who speculate about Houdini’s methods, the authors suggest a possibility: a lock pick passed to Houdini in a kiss from his wife, Bess. A thoughtful closing discussion offers additional information about Houdini and Bess, and relates fascinating details under headings such as “Locks of the Day and How Houdini Prepared to Pick Them” and “In the Early Part of the Twentieth Century Everybody Wore Hats.” Glen David Gold’s Introduction places the magician within the framework of the early 1900s and outlines the character traits that carried him to fame: obsession, energy, loyalty, and the inability to refuse a challenge. With few words and many images, readers will be caught up in a dramatic moment of magical showmanship. (MVL) ©2007 Cooperative Children’s Book Center


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