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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Houdini Box by Brian Selznick

The Houdini BoxTen-year-old Victor dreams of becoming a world-famous magician, like his hero, the remarkable Harry Houdini. Victor tries to copy the magical achievements of his hero: getting out of locked trunks, walking through walls and holding his breath for 5,000 seconds, but he does not succeed. The only thing Victor is successful at is driving his poor mother crazy. After Victor attempts another magic trick, Victor’s mother decides to try and take Victor’s mind off of magic for a while, and takes him on a trip to visit his Aunt Harriet.

When Victor goes to the railway station, he sees Houdini and runs away from his mother so he can meet his hero and ask him a few questions. Houdini is impressed with Victor’s passion for magic, and promises Victor that he will send him an invitation in the mail to come and visit him at his home. After what feels like an eternity for Victor, a letter finally arrives in the mail for Victor inviting him to the home of Houdini. The letter states “A thousand secrets await you. Come to my house...” Upon receiving the letter, Victor can barely contain his excitement. However, his joy is short-lived when he arrives at the home of Houdini and is informed that the famous magician has died. Houdini’s grieving wife hands Victor a mysterious locked box with the initials “E.W.” engraved on it. This box contains the secrets of Houdini’s success, but Victor does not open it because he believes that Houdini’s wife has made a mistake and given him the wrong box. After his visit, Victor feels very disappointed and decides to give up magic and vows to never talk about Houdini again.

Victor grows up, gets married and has a son. One day, Victor is playing catch with his son and the ball rolls onto the grave of Harry Houdini. Victor walks over to the grave and sees that Harry Houdini’s real name was Erick Weisz. When he sees that Houdini’s real name has the initials “E.W.”, Victor realizes that the box belonged to the famous magician after all. That night, Victor goes into his attic and opens the box, revealing Houdini’s secrets. Now that he knows the magician’s secrets, Victor finally successfully escapes from a locked trunk.

While this is a fictional story, there are facts about Houdini’s life in the back of the book. This is a wonderful and fascinating story for anyone that is interested in magicians or the incredible life of the world-famous Houdini. This book is currently nominated for the 2011 Bluestem Award.

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