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Harry Houdini: A Magical Life

by Elizabeth MacLeod

Elizabeth MacLeod, a Toronto writer who has authored biographies on the Wright brothers, Alexander Graham Bell, and Lucy Maud Montgomery, turns her attention this time to Harry Houdini. As part of the Kids Can Press Snapshots series, this biography makes extensive use of visual records, such as photographs, newspaper clippings, posters, and other artifacts.

The remarkable life story of Ehrich Weisz, the Jewish Hungarian immigrant who became the world-famous magician and escape artist Houdini, is energetically told with interesting facts, quotes, and vivid details, particularly of his death-defying acts. An illustrated full-body caricature of Houdini addresses readers through speech bubbles to bring life to the historic character.

The easy-to-navigate layout is visually appealing, with even-numbered pages containing the bulk of the text, while the opposite pages are mostly captioned visual information and intriguing quotes. Divided into 13 two-page chapters, the biography includes an index as well as a timeline, highlighting major events in Houdini’s life.

MacLeod urges readers to “visit Harry” and has included a list of American museums with a Houdini focus. MacLeod also mentions the Library of Congress American Memory site for additional Houdini photographs but fails to provide a web address. For most readers, a listing of Internet sites, complete with URLs, would allow for more practical visits.

This high-interest, informative, and visually pleasing biography is an excellent way for school and public libraries to add a little non-fiction magic to their shelves.