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The Houdini Box: What Secrets Does It Hold?
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The Houdini Box: What Secrets Does It Hold?

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  1,207 ratings  ·  162 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, to walk through walls, and to perform any number of Houdini's astonishing magic tricks...without success. Then amazingly he meets his idol and begs Houdini to explain himself. A mysterious, locked box is the only answer, a

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Paperback, 64 pages
Published March 29th 1994 by Knopf Books for Young Readers (first published 1991)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,347)
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Greg
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
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Praxedes
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.
Kathryn
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
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Linda Lipko
Impressed with Selznick's illustrations in The Invention of Hugo Cabret, The Doll People, Meanest Doll in the World, The Runaway Dolls and Wonderstruk, when I saw The Houdini Box on the library shelf, I spent a pleasant time relaxing in a quiet corner of the library, reading The Houdini Box.

As mentioned previously, I cannot draw a straight line, even with a ruler! Thus, I am very impressed with the artistry and beauty that flows from the imagination and lands on paper.

In this wonderfully illustr
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olivia
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.
Jason
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
Lisa
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
Madonnasharma
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
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Jasmine
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
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
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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
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Elizabeth
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
Cruth
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
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Chris
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
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Kristin
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
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Misty
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.
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
Toni

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
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Linnae
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
Cat
May 20, 2015 Cat rated it 5 of 5 stars
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 :).
Nick
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.
Catherine
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.
Benjamin
I bought this book for a couple of reasons. I thought Selznick's previous book was pretty entertaining. I liked the images and the world he created. This book takes place in a similar world. A young boy has a brush with a famous personality who exudes a sense of magic. In this case the historical personality is Houdini, which was the 2nd reason I bought the book. I had recently heard an excellent podcast about Houdini and wanted to see where Selznick went with him.

The book, though was almost to
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Katie Bruce
"Do you have any other books like the 'Houdini Box'? Stories about Houdini??" Oh, man. That was a tough one...fiction books about Houdini you say? Hmm...this was the only one that came up in our catalog. And I hadn't read it! I didn't even know Brian Selznick HAD another book that he wrote and illustrated besides Hugo and Wonderstruck (bad librarian! minus 10 points for Griffindor!). Anyways, I had to read this one. It's from 1991, so it was written long before Hugo, but it has a similar style o ...more
Jessica Duvall
Feb 15, 2010 Jessica Duvall rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone and everyone
I absolutely loved this book with the mixture of fact with fiction about the life of the amazing magician Harry Houdini. This would be a great book to bring into the classroom because so many kids are fascinated by the story of Harry Houdini and the many escapes that he pulled off. I am also fascinated by the story of this great magician. This book was just filled with so much entertainment from the silly and captivating drawings to the fun and touching story of Victor who wants to follow in the ...more
Karen
This was a delightful and near-perfect very short story. I wanted more, because I loved the story so much; but, then again, maybe I loved the story so much because it was so spare. It is a lovely, lovely story that made my eyes prickle from surprise tears.
Rachel Truelove
The book The Houdini Box by Brian Selznick was very alluring and kept me intrigued the whole time wondering if Victor would ever meet Houdini and if he would ever get to be a magician.
Ekohn
Tranistional Story: “The Houdini Box” written and illustrated by Brian Selznick. Copyright 1991. Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

ABRA-KA-DABRA… ALA-KAZAAM… Everyone knows these famous words but do YOU know how to make these words come to life? Do YOU know how to escape from locked trunks? Do YOU know how to walk through walls? Did YOU know Houdini had a magician’s box containing all of his treasured secrets on how to be the world’s GREATEST MAGICIAN ever? What would YOU do if you go
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Lorelie
Seeing some of Brian Selznick's first works was cool. I had never read this before. Fun story. Love the combination of fact and fiction.
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38120
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
More about Brian Selznick...
The Invention of Hugo Cabret Wonderstruck The Boy of a Thousand Faces The Hugo Movie Companion: A Behind the Scenes Look at How a Beloved Book Became a Major Motion Picture The Robot King

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