Houdini: The Handcuff King

Writer(s): Jason Lutes
Artist(s): Nick Bertozzi
Publisher: Hyperion
ISBN: 978-0786839032
Price: $9.99
Page count: 96
Year Released: 2008
Status: in print
Original Source: n/a
Other Collected Edition(s): hardcover edition (ISBN 978-0786839025)
Genres: all ages; biography; historical fiction; teen/young adult
Recommended for Fans Of: Harry Houdini or magic in general
Possibly Objectionable Material: none
If You Like This Book, Try: Escapo
Also in This Series: n/a

Plot Summary
This all-ages book illuminates a particularly important day in the life of Houdini, the world-famous escape artist who, according to Glen David Gold (the writer of the book's introduction), "was the first man in history to be famous because what he did was cool."

On May 1, 1908, Houdini prepares to jump off the Harvard Bridge and into the frigid waters of the Charles River in Cambridge, Massachusetts, shackled with a pair of handcuffs provided by the Cambridge Police Department. As we follow him from his morning preparations, his meeting with the police, his dodging of reporters, and his discussions with his wife Bess, up to the jump itself, Lutes and Bertozzi provide us with a brief but deft portrayal of the early twentieth century's most intriguing celebrity.

My Own 2 Cents
This is the kind of book I would have read over and over again as a child. In fact, I wish it had been available to me back then, in which case I almost certainly would have become entirely obsessed with Harry Houdini.

However, I should note that this book is more like a long short story rather than a true, long-form "graphic novel." Though the portrayal of Houdini is surprisingly rich (and quite a feat on the authors' parts, considering the slice-of-life plot), the story itself is very brief and straightforward. It seems designed almost exclusively for children and young adults with an interest in Houdini specifically or magic and the art of escape in general. There are some very interesting endnotes at the back of the book, which discuss several aspects of the story and its setting. For instance, there are notes on handcuffs of the time, antisemitism (Houdini was Jewish), advertising, reporters, the college rivalries in Boston, etc.

I hope this book has found its way into every children's section of every library in America. I have no doubt that it would be found by many interested and eager little hands in those places.