Houdini and Me

by Dan Gutman (Author)

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

Harry has always admired the famous escape artist Houdini. And when Houdini asks for help in coming back to life, it seems like an amazing chance...or could it be Houdini's greatest trick of all?

Eleven-year-old Harry Mancini is NOT Harry Houdini--the famous escape artist who died in 1926. But Harry DOES live in Houdini's old New York City home, and he definitely knows everything there is to know about Houdini's life. What is he supposed to do, then, when someone starts texting him claiming that they're Houdini, communicating from beyond the grave? Respond, of course.

It's hard for Harry to believe that Houdini is really contacting him, but this Houdini texts the secrets to all of the escape tricks the dead Houdini used to do. What's more, Houdini's offering Harry a chance to go back in time and experience it for himself. Should Harry ignore what must be a hoax? Or should he give it a try and take Houdini up on this death-defying offer?

Dan Gutman is the award-winning author of series including My Weird School, The Genius Files, and the baseball card series, including Honus & Me. He uses his writing powers for good once again in this exciting new middle grade novel.

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School Library Journal

Gr 3-7-Harry Mancini, an 11-year-old living in the New York City apartment once inhabited by Harry Houdini, and his friend venture to the railroad tracks one night to see if they can flatten a quarter on the rails. When Harry gets to close to the tracks, he's knocked into a coma and wakes up to find himself the owner of a flip phone that can receive texts from the great Houdini. As Harry and Houdini text, Harry learns about how the magician pulled off his most famous tricks and a little about the nature of fame, fear, and hope. When Houdini suggests the two switch places, Harry must figure out exactly what has caused this contact from beyond the grave. With quick writing and dialogue and fun facts about Houdini, this is an enjoyable read, especially for those interested in Houdini's life or magic. VERDICT While it may not have the wider appeal of some of Gutman's other titles, this is a charming story that can serve as a jumping-off point for further research into the life of the famed escape artist.-Katie McBride Moench, New Glarus Middle and H.S. Lib., WI © Copyright 2021. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publisher's Weekly

Having been born in the New York City house in which Harry Houdini lived the last years of his life, 11-year-old Harry Mancini has become obsessed with the famous magician, learning the illusionist’s history and picking up magic tricks of his own. When Harry is injured trying to flatten a coin on the train tracks near his home, he wakes up from a coma and finds a gift box with an old flip phone inside, and soon he is getting texts from none other than Houdini himself. The texts are exciting until Houdini seeks to re-create his most famous trick and switch lives with Harry for one hour, sending Harry to Kansas City in 1921, where he’s expected to escape from a straitjacket. Things become truly hair-raising when Houdini suggests taking over Harry’s body again, this time for good-and with or without Harry’s permission. Gutman (the My Weird School series) touches on profound topics through Harry’s chatty narration, such as the boy’s yearning for his late father. Interspersed with New York City facts and photographs of Houdini, this entertaining story ends, appropriately, with a touch of magic. Ages 8-12. 

Copyright 2021 Publisher’s Weekly, LLC Used with permission.


Funny, scary in the right moments, and offering plenty of historical facts.

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Holiday House
Publication date
March 20, 2021
BISAC categories
JUV019000 - Juvenile Fiction | Humorous Stories
JUV037000 - Juvenile Fiction | Fantasy & Magic
JUV064000 - Juvenile Fiction | Time Travel
JUV069000 - Juvenile Fiction | Ghost Stories
Library of Congress categories
Identity (Psychology)
Paranormal fiction
Houdini, Harry
Escape artists
Near-death experiences

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