Two new books that dip into the life of master illusionist Harry Houdini are out this spring—one for adults and one for young adults.
Michael Redhill's book Saving Houdini is a classic adventure for young readers about a Toronto boy named Dashiel who is sent back in time by a magic trick gone wrong. Dashiel, with the help of his new 1920s friend Walt, must find his way back home (and might even save Houdini's life along the way).
I've always loved Houdini, not just because of what he did, but also because of what he stood for. He was a self-made man in a time when the idea of celebrity was still new, and he used his celebrity for good. He was a scholar and an inventor. The original creative entrepreneur..."
In this excerpt below, Dashiel explains to his new friend Walt about the moment he was sent back in time.
by Michael Redhill
Walter Gibson’s brows had beetled downwards and his lower
lip was tucked up under his nose. “If even a little bit of that is true,” he
said at last, “I don’t know what to think.” He was staring at some spot
on the wall.
It had taken Dash a whole half hour to get through the
story. The theatre Walter knew as the Pantages. The boy backstage and the
envelope. How he’d been chosen against his will to go onstage, and how he’d
ended up here.
By the point in the story when Dash was encased in the
bubble, the two boys were sitting against the wall, side by side, across from
the bright window. When the bubble popped, Walt stood up and went to look out.
“And there was no one there,” Dash said. “No one. No one on
the stage, and no one in the audience.”
“I was scared to get off the stage. In case, like, it was
part of the trick and I just had to stand still for it. Then some mean guy with
a flashlight chased me out and I had to run away. I thought I was dreaming at
first. But then I was dreaming about things I’ve never seen, not even in
photos—restaurants in houses and newsboys. I saw a cart full of coal!”
“You’ve never seen coal?”
“I think that’s what it was. You burn it in a stove, right?”
“I’d never seen it before.”
“Well, you’re not dreaming me, I can tell you.”
Walt studied him for a moment, his face in shadow in front of
the window, his arms crossed over his chest. “What are we supposed to do in
Montreal? You ’n’ me?”
“I’m not sure yet. But wouldn’t you like to meet Houdini?”
“I guess so. But I don’t know how you think we’re gonna get there.”
“Well, I know one other person in Toronto, and I’m thinking maybe
he can help us. But I need twenty-five cents.”
“He a lawyer or something?”
“No. A magician. Bloom’s grandfather, in fact.”
“The one who invented the trick.”
“That’s right. And he’s playing at the Century in a couple
of hours. If I can get into the show, I can go talk to him. Can you get me a
“Use one’a yours!”
“I almost got arrested in a bakery this morning, Walt. I
need a quarter from 1926 or earlier.”
Walt twisted up his face. “I knew you’d ask for money sooner
“It’s a quarter.”
“Well, I don’t have that kind of money.”
“Can you get it? From home?”
“My father’ll tan me if I steal from him!”
“What about your mom? Maybe tell her I’m borrowing it. I’ll
pay you back.”
“I don’t know. How hard can it be to get a quarter?” Walter looked
at him like he was crazy. “Come on, will you help me?”
Walt furrowed his brow. “Show me the
trick one more time.”
Excerpted from Saving Houdini. Copyright © 2014 by Michael Redhill. Published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
Michael Redhill is a fiction writer, playwright, poet, and the co-editor (and former publisher) of the literary magazine Brick. His bestselling first novel, Martin Sloane, was a finalist for the 2001 Giller Prize, received the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and Books in Canada First Novel Award, and was nominated for the City of Toronto Book Award and the Trillium Book Award. His second novel, Consolation, a historical novel of Toronto, received the 2007 Toronto Book Award, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Saving Houdini is his first novel for young readers.