cover image The Houdini Box

The Houdini Box

Brian Selznick. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $13 (56pp) ISBN 978-0-679-81429-0

In his first book for children, Selznick presents the compelling story of Harry Houdini, the magician who amazed the world with his great escapes. While Houdini circles the globe performing one incredible stunt after another, Victor, a young devotee, goes through his own rigorous magician's training at home--locking himself in closets, holding his breath under water, walking into walls. This counterpoint is a witty, effective device, and Selznick's deadpan text makes the most of it. It seems that Victor will never become a magician, until one day, after a chance encounter with his hero, he receives a special box that just might contain the secrets of Houdini's success. In his arresting, informative blend of fact and fiction, Selznick splendidly captures the sense of wonder that surrounded Houdini. Equally impressive are his evocative drawings; by turns droll, touching and downright silly, they bring added vitality to a captivating book. More than anything, however, this ambitious work teaches the importance of faith and the ability to believe in the impossible. Ages 6-11. (Apr.)