Houdini and Me

Written by Dan Gutman
Review by Elizabeth Caulfield Felt

Eleven-year-old Harry Mancini lives in the same New York City house Harry Houdini once lived in, so our modern-day Harry is obsessed with the historical magician and escape artist. He knows nearly everything about Houdini, including how to do some of his tricks. When Harry and his best friend Zeke go somewhere they shouldn’t and Harry receives a concussion, life becomes weird. Harry receives a mysterious flip-phone as a gift and gets texts from the real (but dead) Harry Houdini. At first, Harry is overjoyed to be able to converse with Houdini, but when the dead Harry wants to trade places with the alive Harry, the ten-year-old becomes worried. Is there anything he can do to stop the magician from returning from the dead?

Houdini remains a popular and fascinating figure from history, and children will be delighted with all the information about the historical figure, his magic, and the revealing of some of his tricks. The text is interrupted from time to time with historical photographs and other, real-life images. Harry Mancini is a likable, relatable character, and his adventure is exciting. In a few places the first-person narration changes awkwardly to omniscient, but young readers are unlikely to notice. Gutman finishes the book with a Facts and Fiction section that explains what he made up and what is true. Recommended for ages 8-12.