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The Houdini Box Hardcover – October 7, 2008

42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Grade 3–5—Selznick reintroduces The Houdini Box, originally published in 1991 (Knopf). In the story, young Victor, a would-be magician, encounters his hero Harry Houdini and is given a prize box belonging to the famous man. Years later, the boy makes an amazing discovery, enabling him to perform an escape trick on his own. In this new edition, Selznick follows his intriguing tale with bonus material: a biographical note on Houdini, an illustrated magic trick, research notes on the writing of the book, and early sketches for the artwork. Libraries not holding the earlier book will want to consider adding this edition as it is sure to intrigue youngsters, particularly those interested in magic.—Barbara Elleman, Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, MA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 7 - 10 years
  • Grade Level: 2 - 5
  • Hardcover: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers; Reissue edition (October 7, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416968784
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416968788
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #718,594 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Brian Selznick grew up in New Jersey and graduated from the Rhode Island School of Art and Design in 1988. He worked for two years after graduation at Eeyore's Books for Children in New York City. His first book was published while he worked there.

Brian has also designed theater sets and worked as a professional puppeteer. His first book, The Houdini Box, was inspired by a fascination with the famous magician. He has illustrated both novels and picture books for other writers, including the Sibert Honor books, When Marian Sang by Pam Munoz Ryan and Walt Whitman: Words for America by Barbara Kerley. His illustrations for Barbara Kerley's The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins won a Caldecott Honor Award in 2002; and in 2008, his groundbreaking book The Invention of Hugo Cabret was awarded the Caldecott Medal. It was nominated for a National Book Award and was the basis for Martin Scorsese's Oscar winning film Hugo. His follow up illustrated novel, Wonderstruck, debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. Brian's next book, The Marvels, will be published in the fall of 2015. Brian divides his time between New York, and San Diego.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By J. Fitch on August 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
When I opened my desk drawer at 7:30 one summer morning to find an annonomously placed copy of "The Houdini Box," I'd no idea that I was connecting with my muse. I sat in the serene silence before the stirring of a workday and read through this children's book about the loss and regaining of a dream. As a children's book, it's delightfully written and beautifully illustrated. I know several children who've enjoyed the tale. For adults, Brian Selznick's book is a parable about the obstacles that turn us from our passions and the serendipitous moments that call us back on track.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Dusty on June 28, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My son is 9 and dislikes reading but he read this book in about a half hour and liked it! The Houdini Box has many pages with great pictures and also many pages with a few short paragraphs. A child who dislikes reading becomes overwhelmed when faced with page after page of WORDS and this was not like that. It kept him turning the pages! Also the story was interesting and to the point- no unnecessary babbling on and on to discourage a child with a short attention span. I thank the author for seeming to understand how to grab the attention of the tough to grab!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Sandra Brazier VINE VOICE on April 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Victor's hero is Harry Houdini. He tries, in his own little ways, to emulate him, but without success. His exasperated mother and aunt quickly grow tired of watching him bump into walls and locking himself into trunks and holding his breath. But one day, he sees his hero in a train station, and everything changes for him.

This sweet story simply tells us how important hero figures are to a child, and how urgent are those feelings to emulate him or her. It reminds the reader how important our dreams are and of the importance of never giving up hope. Nicely written and illustrated.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Kathy H-H on April 11, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased this book for my classroom library (I teach middle school Reading/Language Arts) because many students have read and enjoyed "The Invention of Hugo Cabret." All of us who have read this book have liked it very much. It's especially good for students who might read at a slightly lower than grade-level, but are aided by the excellent pictures.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Grambo on October 26, 2011
Format: Paperback
Brian Selznick, of The Invention of Hugo Cabret fame, illustrates this earlier book with similar black-and-white pencil sketches. In this historical fiction book for middle graders, a boy who wants to become a magician has a chance encounter with the famous Harry Houdini. At the back of the book, the author has added a magic trick, additional biographical information about Houdini, and more.

Written with a simple reading level and an abundance of illustrations; the interest level is probably about 3rd-4th grade.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By In The Night Kitchen on January 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fans of Harry Potter as well as fans of prestidigitation will definitely enjoy this short book. Of course, it's (kind of) about Houdini -- particularly a young boy's fascination with the magician and his feats; and there's a wonderful twist at the end. The illustrations are also terrific, soft but detailed, with lots of things to look at. A fine "read to me" book that everyone will enjoy again and again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jakob Bruhl on May 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I'm probably like a lot of people these days who were introduced to Brian Selznick through The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Thoroughly captivated by that book, I eagerly anticipated the release of Wonderstruck and was equally captivated by that clever story that was cleverly told.

During a recent visit to the local library, I decided to explore other books Selznick had written. While he's illustrated a wide variety, The Houdini Box and The Boy of a Thousand Faces are the only other books that he both wrote and illustrated so I picked them up along with a few others he had illustrated.

I found The Houdini Box to be interesting enough but certainly not as good as I'd expected following the first two Selznick books I'd read. It's an interesting tale of a young boy named Victor who is inspired by Houdini and attempts to escape from things around his house - his grandmother's trunk and closets - and to walk through walls. After a series of events including a visit to Houdini's doorstep, Victor gives up his hopes of magic and illusion and embarks on an otherwise ordinary life. Fast forward and Victor's now a father playing ball with his son when they encounter Houdini's grave unlocking his childhood memories and fascination with the great escape artist.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Z Hayes HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on January 6, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I came to this book quite by accident - I loved Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret and am presently reading Wonderstruck by the same author. As I was surfing this site, I saw this title pop-up and it captured my attention for two reasons - one, that it featured Houdini, and second, because my daughter had enjoyed Hugo (we read the book and watched the movie), and I thought we might enjoy this too.

A cold winter's night afforded us the perfect opportunity to snuggle and read this. The story weaves in fact and fiction. Ten-year-old Victor is inspired by his idol, Harry Houdini and tries in vain to walk through walls, escape from a locked trunk, and perform magic tricks - all of which do not quite turn out right. Then a chance encounter with the great magician leads to Victor receiving a mysterious letter stating, "A thousand secrets await you. Come to my house..."

This leads Victor on an adventure of sorts - he comes into possession of a box with the initials E.W., gets all upset that it is not Houdini's box, and vows never to think of Houdini ever again. It is only years later, as a grown man with a child of his own, that young Victor makes a startling discovery!

The book is heavily-illustrated with Selznick's wonderful crosshatched pencil drawings, which add to the magical element of this story. There's also a brief biography of Harry Houdini, the author's explanations of his research into the Houdini Box, some early sketches, and even magic tricks that can be easily performed! There's also suggestions for further reading on Houdini. This is a book to inspire and delight!
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