Review: Houdini and Me
Houdini and Me
by Dan Gutman
Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Meira Drazin
Buy at Bookshop.org
In Dan Gutman’s middle grade novel HOUDINI AND ME, Harry Mancini is just a regular eleven-year-old kid living in New York City. His one claim to fame is that he lives in the same apartment another Harry used to live in: Harry Houdini, famous escape artist. Things begin to get weird though when someone claiming to be Harry Houdini—who died in 1926— starts texting Harry Manicini from an old cell phone. Of course, it must be a prank. But whoever is texting this Harry knows a lot of things only Harry Houdini himself could know—like how to do some of his most famous tricks. So when Harry Houdini gives Harry Mancini a chance to change places and escape his twenty-first century life for an hour, what could go wrong? Only the fact that Harry Mancini soon finds himself in 1921 Kansas City, in a straight jacket, being cranked nine stories into the air by his feet, forced to perform Harry Houdini’s famous escape. And soon it becomes clear that Harry Houdini doesn’t like being dead, and that he might want to change places with Harry Mancini, permanently, whether Harry wants to or not.
HOUDINI AND ME would not be a contender for the Sydney Taylor Book Award as, although there is a brief mention that Harry Houdini, né Erik Weisz, was Jewish, there is no Jewish content in the novel. However, I would recommend it as a fun read—both for Houdini and magic enthusiasts, and for anyone who enjoys a good story. HOUDINI AND ME is a fast-paced, tightly-plotted novel with unfussy language and a strong voice. It contains some lovely messages, especially about getting past fear by confronting it, and how people found hope in their own lives by watching Houdini perform unbelievable feats of escape. It is well-suited to the middle grade audience for which it is intended and would be a particularly good choice for reluctant readers.
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