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The Amazing Adventures of John Smith, Jr. AKA Houdini Hardcover – Bargain Price, January 24, 2012


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Hardcover, Bargain Price, January 24, 2012
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 950L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (January 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061988901
  • ASIN: B00DF17BB2
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,956,494 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Inspired by the prospect of money and comments made by a writer visiting his middle school, 13-year-old Houdini (nicknamed for his hero) decides to write a “kid’s novel” and finds that it enables him to understand the people around him differently. He has a pretty good handle on his two best friends, but he is less understanding of the people he fears in his working-class Providence neighborhood—namely a classmate with a bullying streak and a one-armed Vietnam veteran known as Old Man Jackson. A bit grittier and more believably boylike than most contemporary first-person narratives, this novel has a lot of heart as well. And while a narrator who makes lists is common enough, Houdini’s are decidedly more amusing than most. With Houdini’s concerns at school and in the neighborhood, not to mention his brother being missing in action in Iraq and his father’s fear of losing his job, the story extends in many directions at once, but Johnson pulls it all together in the end. A Harry Houdini–related bibliography is appended. Grades 5-7. --Carolyn Phelan

Review

A middle-schooler writes a kids’ novel; an author writes an engaging, amiable read-and, presto, a tale about a boy nicknamed Houdini turns out magical....By turns poignant and downright hilarious, Houdini’s story/novel is delivered in a voice that’s wonderfully authentic. (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

Johnson (Loserville) delivers a strong contemporary urban novel with cross-gender appeal...Johnson offers solid insights into the varied well-drawn characters, and readers will appreciate Houdini’s realization that “writing makes you think very hard about things.” (Publishers Weekly)

A bit grittier and more believably boylike than most contemporary first-person narratives, this novel has a lot ofheart as well. And while a narrator who makes lists is common enough, Houdini’s are decidedly moreamusing than most. (Booklist)

“The perfect book for adolescent readers---especially boys---who like humor combined with characters that seem completely real. [A] satisfying novel that will leave readers happy they met Houdini.” (Providence Journal)

More About the Author

Peter Johnson is the critically acclaimed author of several collections of poetry, short stories, and novels, including Miracles & Mortifications, winner of the James Laughlin Award, Eduardo & "I," Pretty Happy!, Rants and Raves: Selected and New Prose Poems, I'm a Man, and two young adult novels: Loserville and What Happened, the latter which received the Paterson Prize and was called the "most gorgeously written YA of 2007" by Booklist. Johnson is the recipient of two creative writing awards from Rhode Council on the Arts and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He teaches creative writing and children's literature at Providence College in Rhode Island, where he lives with his wife, Genevieve, and two sons, Kurt and Lucas. His faculty website can be found at http://www.providence.edu/English/Faculty/Peter+Johnson.htm

Customer Reviews

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See all 11 customer reviews
Every boy or girl over 10 should read this book.
Midget
This book was used as the featured book for a One School/One Book Summer Reading program for a Middle School.
Deborah A Ohara
I started the book this morning and I finished it this afternoon.
ProvRes

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I've been reading kid-literature aloud for years to my boys. I couldn't believe it when my 11-year-old found this book in the children's section of the library. Initially I blew him off. Several visits later I picked it up and . . . YOWZA! If parents are recommending this book it's because the parent hasn't read the book. This book is for 13 +. Harper Collins has it listed as appropriate for ages 8 to 12 -- sorry, somebody was asleep on the job. Real kid-lit is awesome. Start with Kate DiCamillo or Madeleine L’Engle. Here's what I found in the first few pages of this book:

Chapter title on page 6: No Swearing or Sex
P. 8 -- "Why we can't swear in front of our parents."
P. 9 -- The list starts off with "jack ass" and includes "privates."
P. 9 -- "Mr. Peterson also said a kid's book can't have explicit sex" and "none of us has had explicit sex."
P. 11 -- "No explicit sex."
P. 14 -- "People think you're a jackass if. . ."
P. 15 -- ". . . his mother has more boyfriends than Paris Hilton."
P. 16 -- "One day a kid brought a nasty magazine to school."

The book needs to be in the teenage section for. . . teenagers.
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Format: Hardcover
I gave this book to my nephew who is dyslectic and he loved it!
Because of his dyslexia he usually heads for the hills when he sees me coming with a book as a present, but this one he couldn't stop reading. He also wanted to share it with his mother.
This was the first age appropriate book that they could have a discussion about!
I would recommend this book to anyone but especially to boys who are reluctant readers,
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Format: Hardcover
This book was used as the featured book for a One School/One Book Summer Reading program for a Middle School.
Students from grades 5 to 8 read the book over the summer and discussed the book with the author in the fall.

It is tall order to find a book that will engage such a disparate age group but this one did the trick. The students were excited to discuss it at the beginning of the school year as were the teachers and support staff.

It touches on many social issues yet is never preachy. For example, some topics that are covered are bullying, poverty, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, friendship, the economy, tolerance, and single parent hood. It also features a loving.and caring family.

After reading this book many of our students started making lists and keeping journals themselves!

I would recommend this book to anyone who would enjoy a beautifully written good story!
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Format: Kindle Edition
John Smith is a boring name unless you're related to the John Smith of Pocahontas fame, which this one isn't. Fortunately a fascination with magician Harry Houdini has yielded a semi-cool nickname for this thirteen-year-old potential author. That is until Angel, who is badly named since he's the school bully, turns it into "Houdini Weenie" and sets out to make Houdini and his buddies as miserable as possible without actually committing murder and going to prison. Houdini Smith and his friends Lucky, who isn't, and Jorge, who probably needs medication to keep him from going truly crazy, have many interesting and bizarre adventures that Houdini decides to turn into a book so he can get rich, or at least help his parents pay the bills. As he writes, he determines not use curse words, but gives you a list of alternatives he WILL use, and swears off talking about sex so kids can read his novel. This done, Houdini gives the reader a guided tour through his life, including the way his family copes with his brother's stint as a Marine in Iraq, dealing with Angel-the-Bully and his crew, setting up a leaf-raking adventure that nearly cripples Lucky, and making sort-of-friends with a half-crazed Vietnam vet named Old Man Jackson. This was an okay read that may appeal to reluctant readers and middle school boys. The relationships are fairly shallow, there are plenty of almost-swear-words, and the boys make a concentrated effort to put the bully in his place through trickery. Not a first pick for me, but I've never been a middle school boy (thank goodness!).
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By Andrea Larocque on August 10, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Don't really find books of this type entertaining other people might anyways you should still read this book it's ok.
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By Sharon on April 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover
John Smith Jr. aka Houdini is thirteen and lives on the East Side of Providence. He's obsessed and has read every book about the real Houdini. John helps his friends Lucky and Jorge rake leaves in their neighborhood, but this book is really about feelings, the war in Afghanistan, parents, trouble, enemies, and most of all change.

Wait, I almost forgot, it's also about a boy that writes a book.

Author Peter Johnson teaches college level creative writing and children's literature in Rhode Island.
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