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Harry Houdini: A Magical Life.

Harry Houdini: A Magical Life written by Elizabeth MacLeod Kids Can Press, 2005 1-55337-769-9 (hc) $16.95 1-55337-770-2 (pb) $7.95 for Grades 3 to 7

Prepare to Be Amazed: The Geniuses of Modern Magic written by Mary Schendlinger Annick Press, 2005 1-55037-926-7 (pb) $14.95 1-55037-927-3 (hc) $24.95 for Grades 3 to 9

Magic and mystery! Nothing intrigues a reader more. To find both attributes in two new well-presented biographical collections is a sure-fire way to spur a youngster's imagination.

The first is Harry Houdini: A Magical Life by Elizabeth MacLeod who once again demonstrates her ability to narrate a fascinating life-story. She describes how "through determination, hard work and incredible talent, Harry changed the world of magic forever." MacLeod has incorporated actual photographs, play bills, press releases and news clippings to illustrate chapters of Harry's life, from his birth as Ehrich Weisz, son of an immigrant rabbi, to the world renowned illusionist and escape artist. There is a useful two-page timeline that encapsulates his colourful life, with intriguing facts: his collection of more than 5,000 books and posters about magic is part of the American Library of Congress, and how his body was buried in the same coffin he'd brought along on his 1926 tour. MacLeod uses Harry's own philosophy for success with children: "Never try to fool children. They expect nothing and therefore see everything."

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Prepare to be Amazed: The Geniuses of Modern Magic by Mary Schendlinger is an interesting, historical collection of ten short bios on the world's twentieth century magicians: from Adelaide Herrmann and Harry Blackstone to Doug Henning and David Copperfield. Less renowned, but easily the best conjuror was Blackstone, whose demise was the invention of television where the up-close and personal technique of the stage no longer sufficed. The true magician/researcher will be delighted to find that tricks associated with each magician are included. These, plus Schendlinger's excellent introduction, allow the young book-talker to easily complete his task of presenting a biographical account of both magic and magician. The format is a young reader's delight--numerous colour photos, limited text, with more information provided in the "Sources" section: books, video, web, interviews and periodicals. Such books are a dream resource for first-time non-fiction readers in writing a research report on a famous individual.

Providing great non-fiction sources for the young reader is no easy task for parents, teachers and teacher-librarians. The two books reviewed here are an excellent example of such books. They are slim, full of relevant textual information written in both an interesting and easy-to-read style, appealing to many ages six to 14.

Reading non-fiction has to be as much fun as losing yourself in a good story. Having such books to introduce young readers to the biographical style is nothing short of genius. It's in the fun of early presentation of this kind of material that true researchers are born.

Ellen Donogh is a teacher-librarian at Queenston School in Winnipeg.
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Title Annotation:We Recommend; Prepare to Be Amazed: The Geniuses of Modern Magic
Author:Donogh, Ellen
Publication:Canadian Children's Book News
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2006
Words:496
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