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The Houdini Box

3.91  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,438 Ratings  ·  183 Reviews
"Open this book and come face-to-face with the greatest magician of all time -- Harry Houdini!"Victor is forever trying to escape from locked trunks, walk through walls, and perform any number of Houdini's astonishing magic tricks...without success. Then -- amazingly -- he actually meets his idol and begs Houdini to explain himself. A mysterious locked box is the magician' ...more
Hardcover, 64 pages
Published September 1st 2001 by Atheneum Books (first published 1991)
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Jul 12, 2009 Greg rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-for-kids
Walking home after a nice meal of sushi, I found this laying on the ground in front of the Salvation Army. I feel like I may have stolen it, but then I had a feeling it would have been taken by someone, gotten ripped up or destroyed in some similar way if I had left it there till the Salvation Army opens tomorrow. So, free books are nice, and this book was pretty nice too, so everything worked out.

A book about Houdini, kind of a biography, kind of not. The book's moral I think, is don't be a st
Charming. Review to follow.
May 31, 2011 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childrens
I can't imagine not being fascinated by the magic and greatness of Houdini, but I do hold a particular bit of bias: the claim-to-fame of my hometown Queens neighborhood is that Houdini is buried there. Whenever I see this fact in print, I admit that a small shock of pride goes through me. Picture my thrill, then, when I discovered that Selznick not only includes mention of my town in a photocopied newspaper clipping in the back pages, but SETS his simple, heartwarming, magical, story there and c ...more
Roberta Frontini
May 31, 2016 Roberta Frontini rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not as good as the other ones... but great read :) Recommend it!
Alípio Vieira Firmino
Uma história MUIIIIIITO bonita, vale bem a pena. Foi meia horinha plena de prazer. :-)
May 18, 2015 Praxedes rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Selznick's artwork, as always, is breathtaking. The story could use a little help, however. It is a simple tale that could have become memorable had he included the real-life story about Houdini's box, adding mystery and excitement. It was still fun to look at the drawings, though.
I love pretty much anything Selznick does and this book did not fail to impress me. However, I find myself at a loss as to how to review it. I was touched by the story, yet a little frustrated, too. I don't think this has anything to do with Selznick as a storyteller or artist--I think it's just because I haven't figured out what "lesson" I want to take away from the book. And I found the author's note at the end was heartbreaking!

For a much better review than I can manage, please see my friend
Colona Public Library
Amazing illustrated piece by Brian Selznick and a wonderful biography-fiction piece. A boy who loves magic tricks tries to unlock the secret to Houdini's Box. It has a nice story inspired by the magician and it devotes a small biography about Houdindi the last few pages. I recommend this to young students doing biography reports. You can pick this material up at the Colona Public Library. ~Ashley

If you like illustrated historical fiction I would recommend Matt Phelan to read next!
Linda Lipko
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 14, 2008 olivia marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
oh my fucking god! i must have this book! i am breathless.
Nov 10, 2011 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a really good story, and very obviously a precursor to what Selznick would do with The Invention of Hugo Cabret about a decade and a half later. It's a short book (took me no more than 20 minutes to read), and one that I would love to see him return to and extend now that he's gotten a couple of really massive graphic/written hybrid novels under his belt. The story is fine in its current form, but I really feel like there's a novel buried in there, one that could be every bit as riveting ...more
Jan 30, 2010 Madonnasharma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: awards-books
Texas Bluebonnet Award: The Houdini Box

This is a delightful little book that Selznick “experimented” with before The Invention of Hugo Cabret. I liked it as a good choice for my 6th graders that read at a 3rd/4th grade level, who might be afraid of the size of HUGO, but who would enjoy the same creative approach. In fact, they might like it so much that they may enjoy moving on to HUGO.
It also gives you an opportunity to see Brian Selznick‘s talent develop. Please note that this is an award winn
It was fun to find this book, one I did not know, published in 1991, twenty-four years ago. It isn’t really about Houdini although the endpapers show some wonderful old posters advertising his shows. A young boy, Victor, is inspired by Houdini and wants very much to meet him, to discover his secrets. He does manage to meet him by chance, and receives a letter from Houdini with a date for their meeting. So excited, the boy goes that very day instead, and is handed a box by Houdini’s wife, a locke ...more
Michael Emond
Some very lovely art but not a very interesting story for children. I love Houdini so I was hoping for a little more insight into him or at least capturing the magic and wonder of him. As it is we have a boy who wants to be like Houdini...keeps locking himself in boxes and can't escape (kind of makes the boy seem like an idiot - or his mom who can't be bothered to explain "no, magicians use trick boxes you slow-witted boy")....the boy meets Houdini by chance who then promises to teach the boy hi ...more
Jackie B. Forman
This is, believe it or not, the first book I've read written by Brian Selznick. This is surprising since it's September and I've been trying to read his complete works all year long. Mostly, I've been reading books he's illustrated. That said, Selzinck did illustrate this book as well. And, as always, it's gorgeous.

This book tells the story of a young boy who is obsessed with the magic of Harry Houdini. He lives during Houdini's lifetime and finds himself constantly getting locked in boxes and r
Jun 23, 2009 Jasmine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american
I read this to see if I felt any better about it than Hugo Caberet.

It was slightly better, at least the story was then the last 3/4 of the book were basic TMI.
Blake Hobbs
Mar 03, 2012 Blake Hobbs rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book!!!!!!!!
Laura Verret
There are two types of biographies – there are the strict, factual ones. And then there are the ones that fall more into the category of ‘biographical fiction’. The Houdini Box is definitely ‘biographical fiction’.

The protagonist of The Houdini Box, rather than being Houdini himself, is instead a young boy named Victor. Victor adores Houdini and wants to be a ‘magician’ himself – but all of his attempts to walk through walls fail! One day he meets Houdini by chance and Houdini agrees to meet wit
Sue Smith
Loved this book!! I mean - love the stuff that Brian Selznick does anyways ...... he's genius! (Reminds me of the whimsy of Maurice Sendak, but more fleshed out). But the story on this one is really really sweet.

What kid- what person for that matter- young or old, doesn't dream of magic, of doing magic , of being able to create magic. Who doesn't love magic tricks, or doesn't love the magic of the movies or the magic of the stage or the magic of a musical performance. That feeling! That overwhel
Selznick's first novel tells the story of a young boy who wants to be just like Houdini, much to the chagrin of his family. When he finally meets his idol Houdini promises to write him. The letter arrives instructing the boy to visit. He is too excited to wait for the proper day, and instead appears on Houdini's doorstep on Halloween. Houdini has died, and left him a box. Not believing the box to belong to Houdini because of the initials on it he gives up his dreams. Years pass and one day a cha ...more
By the author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, a 50ish page picture book for older children.

(Written in 1991, "Hugo" was first published 2007).

In Selznick's trademark style he takes the story of Harry Houdini and bends it around the made up Victor. Combining intelligent, beautiful pencil drawings with a compelling text, "The Houdini Box" was a definite winner in our house. Laugh out loud funny as Victor tries to emulate Houdini's marvellous tricks. But also an interesting dialogue on hopes and d
Nov 20, 2013 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childrens
My wife and I took turns reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret to our son as a bedtime story. We all really liked it, and I wanted to read more by Brain Selznick. On a regular trip to the library I decided to see what they had in for Selznick. Honestly I was really hoping they had his newer one Wonderstruck, but I saw this and figured my son would love anything having to do with magic.

This is a lot shorter than it looks. Like Invention of Hugo Cabret there are words and pictures throughout the bo
Selznick's simplest story. This book feels like an earlier work. It weaves common Houdini facts into a story of a young boy that hopes to be a magician with Houdini's help. It's well researched and imaginative but doesn't match the sophistication of his more recent stories. The illustrations are characteristic Selznick though. I enjoyed each and every one!

My eight year old read this along with other Houdini books as part of a school project. We had a wonderful discussion of what was true and wha
Mar 20, 2014 Misty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So I read the Invention of Hugo Cabret not too long ago and I was sooo in love I wanted everything the author has ever written. So I put this up on Amazon pretty much the minute I was done reading Hugo. However I didn't see how small it was, that being said I really did like this book. It was a little sad for me story wise because I could see this really happening. Overall I think is this a most read for children from an infant and up.

Cute book about a boy named Victor, who wants to be a magician like his hero, Harry Houdini. Victor meets Houdini at a train station and Houdini invites Victor to his home. Victor eventually gets a hold of Houdini's box, but does not believe the box belonged to Houdini, Victor hides the box away. Later in his life, after Victor gets married and has his own son, named Harry, Victor discovers that the box actually did belong to Houdini. He opens it to see if it contains the secrets of Houdini's tr
Jun 23, 2011 Linnae rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, juvenile
Victor is a boy determined to become just like his hero--the Great Houdini. So he is constantly locking himself into trunks and trying to hold his breath underwater...among other things. Then he gets a chance to actually meet Houdini, who promises to teach him his secrets. But when Victor shows up to make good on the promise, he learns that Houdini has just died. He is, however, given a box by Houdini's widow. It's not a very promising looking box, and in time he puts it away, unopened. Years la ...more
May 20, 2015 Cat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: k-12
My husband loved this book as a kid, though I've never read it until today. In fact, this is the copy he grew up with it has lots of sentimental value.

Anyhow, very cute story. Although fiction, I liked all the little facts sprinkled in and I think it's rather different from most children's books. I think this is appropriate for a large range of ages :).
Cecilia Rodriguez
This is Selznick's first published book, so it is cool to see the evolution between this story and his current work: "The Marvels."
The story is a fun blend of fiction and biography, with the world famous escape artist and magician, Harry Houdini as the subject.
The black and white illustrations suit the time period the story is set.
Jun 04, 2014 Nick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An absolutely enchanting little story for children old enough to understand death and loss. Selznick's illustrations, which we've come to love in Hugo, are wonderfully soulful here. It feels like an authentic moment of the author's life is captured in this delightful tale. Highly recommended for reading aloud to your 8-year-old.
Apr 25, 2015 Catherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This little book has a lexile of 840. I think this would be a great book to share with a student who loves Houdini. It has just enough information to help a child know what questions they need to ask to further research his life. The pictures are wonderful.

3.5 stars rounded up to four because the pictures are so good.
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Hello there. My name is Brian Selznick and I’m the author and illustrator of The Invention of Hugo Cabret. I was born in 1966 in New Jersey. I have a sister who is a teacher, a brother who is a brain surgeon, and five nephews and one niece. I studied at The Rhode Island School of Design and after I graduated from college I worked at Eeyore’s Books for Children in New York City. I learned all about ...more
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