Friday, March 19, 2021

Guy Friday- Houdini and Me

Gutman, Dan. Houdini and Me
March 2nd 2021 by Holiday House
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Harry Mancini lives in New York City, in the very house where the famous Harry Houdini once lived. He's always been a fan. He and his friend Zeke are hanging out at Riverside Park, playing near the railroad tracks, when Harry's shoelace gets stuck. He can't get his shoe off, but as a train bears down on him, he falls backwards and survives, although he has a concussion and is in the hospital. He's okay, and has many gifts and flowers. In one box is an old fashioned cell phone. Harry's a little excited, since his mother doesn't believe in children having smart phones, but he's very surprised when the phone buzzes... and Harry Houdini is on the other end. After some conversations with his idol, Harry is given an offer by Houdini-- switch bodies for an hour and travel back to take Houdini's place while Houdini experiences 21st century New York. Harry agrees, but finds himself in a bit of a pickle in Houdini's time. Houdini, in the modern day, doesn't have much looking booking his act at Madison Square Garden, and his reasons for switching with Harry end up being a bit darker than were expected. Will young Harry be able to remain in his own time, or will Houdini use him as a way to obtain immortality?
Strengths: I absolutely adore the inclusion of photographs of real places in New York! Like The Basweball Card Adventures, we have a modern kid sent back into time, but this is slightly different because Harry doesn't spend a whole lot of time there. Young Harry's near miss with death, the fact he lives in Houdini's house, and the communicating with Houdini by cell phone are all really interesting. I liked that Gutman included Houdini's interest in speaking from the beyond the grave. Quite a fun book, and I enjoyed having one central character, although The Flashback Four books work well with an ensemble cast. 
Weaknesses: Should the texts from Houdini have been in all capital letters? It seemed a bit like screaming to me, but from a children's standpoint I guess it makes sense.
What I really think: This reminded me a bit of Qwerty Stevens, but it's a formula that works. Students are still fascinated with Houdini, so this is a must purchase for elementary and middle school libraries. The fact that it is a stand alone also makes it great for gift giving to fans of this author, Houdini, or historical fiction. 
 Ms. Yingling

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