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Houdini: The Handcuff King Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 27, 2007

4.5 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Following Houdini on the morning of his leap (while handcuffed) into the frigid Boston River, readers gain a remarkably complete picture of his world. They will meet his wife, Bess; his strong-arm man, Beatty; reporters desperate to get a quote; and crowds hungry for a glimpse of him. Most of all, they get to know Houdini himself, who, as an extensive introduction notes, was probably the most famous man in the world at the time. Proud and obsessed--with his skill, his fame, and his wife--Houdini was a showman of the highest order who knew he represented hope to his adoring American public. He also knew that he had an unprecedented talent for self-hype. Avoiding overt, showy tricks themselves, Lutes and Bertozzi^B use clean, simple storytelling and crisp, clear black-and-white art to create not only a portrait of the man but also that sense of suspense and anticipation Houdini generated in his performances. Endnotes linked to specific pictures offer background on everything from anti-Semitism (Houdini was Jewish) to handcuffs. A bibliography of mostly older adult titles is appended. Jesse Karp
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Jason Lutes is a cartoonist living in Seattle. He has been an admirer of Houdini for most of his adult life, and his celebrated graphic novel for adults, Jar of Fools, also pays homage to the Handcuff King.

Nick Bertozzi is an award-winning cartoonist based in New York.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion (April 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786839023
  • ASIN: B00196SYAC
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 0.8 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,643,776 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I just can't help but wonder," the magician Harry Houdini wonders at the end of "Houdini: The Handcuff King," a graphic novel by Jason Lutes and Nick Pertozzi, "will anyone even remember me a hundred years from now?"

Who can tell, awash as we are in the flood of current events, movies, books, comic books and other forms of entertainment? He certainly deserves to be, if only as a historical figure, a stage magician who built his reputation by being the best magician and escape artist there ever was, and by making sure everyone knew it.

"Houdini" tells this story by focusing on the events of a single day -- May 1, 1908 -- and a single publicity stunt, in which Houdini leapt into the near-frozen Charles River in Cambridge, Mass., wearing only a bathing suit and shackled at the wrists and ankles. Writer Jason Lutes follows the magician as he works at his craft, is interviewed by the press (and, like modern athletes, showing that he's capable of making them laugh, but also bringing out the claws to defend his reputation) and working with the police while rehearsing his stunt. And even though we know what to expect, he still pulls several surprises, working the reader as well as the audience.

Historical figures do not operate in a vacuum, and neither did Houdini. While watching him work, we're also made aware of the support network he built around him, starting with his loving wife, Bess, who he relied on for emotional support off-stage and as an assistant on-stage. Houdini also needed someone to promote his shows, and to protect him from unscrupulous rivals. It's a measure of the respect he engendered that he took to the grave the secrets of his most spectacular stunts.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the first book in a proposed series of graphic-novel biographies for young readers published by the Center for Cartoon Studies in conjunction with Hyperion Press. It is meant to give just a snapshot of one moment in the life of Harry Houdini, and it delivers on its promise. By selecting one specific incident in the life of the famous magician/showman, the authors give readers a tantalizing glimpse of Houdini's life and accomplishments. In an original graphic novel style, Houdini is shown preparing for and then executing one of his most famous stunts, a death-defying jump off of the Harvard Bridge while handcuffed. His wife, Bess, is accurately depicted as an able accomplice, and readers get a glimpse into the secrets behind Houdini's success. Houdini loved a crowd, and the authors show how he worked his fans into a frenzy of fearful excitement. Large panels, which sometimes cross to the opposite page, along with bold illustrations showing close attention to facial expressions, add plenty of drama to the page.

Houdini's Jewish identity is mentioned only briefly when a Boston policeman wonders aloud if it is true that the showman has horns. As he is being inspected before the stunt, Houdini rebukes the policeman by saying, "mind the horns." A series of panel discussions round out the volume, and one of these explains Houdini's Jewish background and the anti-Semitism that was prevalent at the time.

Fans of the graphic novel format will delight in this creative and suspenseful book, and since there have been a glut of recent books about Houdini, for both children and adults, curious readers who want a more in-depth biography will have an ample selection from which to choose. For ages 10 and up.

Reviewed by Wendy Wasman.
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Format: Hardcover
My first spin through this story was very quick. In barely 80 pages (many without any dialog) the authors tell the story of one of Harry Houdini's famous escapes -- a seemingly ordinary handcuff-and-leg iron escape from the frozen waters of Boston's Charles River. But in telling the tale, the authors have incorporated many elements that ground the story in its time period and the characters that inhabited it. There are references to Houdini's loyal entourage, his protectiveness about his reputation and legacy, his adoration of his wife Bess, antisemitism, purity norms, technology, attack journalism, clothing styles (hats were *not* optional!) and the Harvard-Yale college rivalry. But most of all, the authors let the reader in on the secret of this escape, which involved a thorough understanding of locks, hard physical training, shameless showmanship, utterly loyal friends, and the distracting sight of public kissing.

It's easy to miss much of this on a quick pass. But the authors included a 5-page explanatory section at the end of the story that provides more details about why, for instance, a police officer would think Harry might have horns on his head. A 3-page introduction by author (and illusionism fan) Glen David Gold, provides more background material about Houdini and his times.

"Houdini, The Handcuff King" is a fun and informative exploration of an extraordinary individual whose work in establishing his own fame continues to pay dividends. Accessible for readers 9 and up.
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Format: Hardcover
This short book is a great introduction to Harry Houdini. In just under a hundred short pages, the authors craft a story about one of Houdini's daring escapes and help to explain who he was when he was not performing. Read this book if you have any interest in Houdini, magic, graphic novels, or escapes. The introduction mentions that people may have loved Houdini partly because he embodied the American Spirit and even freedom itself. After reading this, I agree with him. Houdini was able to capture the spirit of individualism through his show and his impact continues on even today, 85 years after his death. Recommended.
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