cover image The Abracadabra Kid: A Writer's Life

The Abracadabra Kid: A Writer's Life

Sid Fleischman. Greenwillow Books, $16.99 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-688-14859-1

Newbery Medalist Fleischman (The Whipping Boy) seems to have been keeping his best trick up his sleeve all these years: himself. In this funny, poignant, insightful and thoroughly entertaining autobiography, he proves himself an effortless raconteur, possessed of a rapid-fire wit. Fleischman claims his path to the writing life was accidental (""I had a childhood much like everyone else's,"" he states. ""What went wrong?""). Born in 1920, Fleischman's life in fact has been remarkable, touched by such major events as the Depression (during which he got his first job, fresh out of high school, as a magician) and WWII, where he served in the Navy (""I liked the idea even in war of sleeping between clean white sheets,"" he quips)--even the 1994 Los Angeles earthquake (which wreaked havoc at his home in Santa Monica). Chapter headings are followed by brief but memorable lines from fan letters (""When did you start writing? When are you going to stop?""), establishing the book's self-deprecating tone right from the start. Fleischman, who is generous with his writing tips, also shares a wonderful collection of memorabilia--from family photos to a handbill from the ""Midnite Spook Frolic"" vaudeville act he traveled with for two years, to a candid of John Wayne and Lauren Bacall on the set of Blood Alley, adapted from his novel of the same name. Alas, the final page comes all too soon. Encore, please! Ages 10-up. (Sept.)