Monday, April 13, 2015

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Saving Houdini

If you enjoy time travel books and/or magic, this is a great pick! It’s one of the finalists for the Ontario Library Association’s Silver Birch Award.

Here’s the Amazon description:

A classic adventure story set in historic Toronto—with a dash of humour and a lot of heart Dashiel Woolf is ecstatic when famous magician Bloom the Beguiler brings him onstage during a special performance to mark the eighty-fifth anniversary of Harry Houdini’s death. But a century-old trick invented by Bloom’s grandfather goes inexplicably wrong—sending Dash back to 1926. Wandering the historic streets of Toronto, he barely recognizes his city but with the help of his new friend, Walt, he hatches a plan to invent the trick that will transport him home. In doing so, they just might prevent the Great Houdini from taking part in the event that ended his life, possibly changing history forever.

Saving Houdini by Michael Redhill, HarperCollins Publishers, Toronto, 2014

My Take:

I really liked the concept of a boy traveling back in time through a magic trick. The friendship between Walt and Dash was portrayed realistically, since they don’t become instant friends. I especially liked the scene where Dash had to convince Walter that he was from the future.  Since I live near Toronto, I found the historical details of the city quite interesting. I would have liked a little more to the story of how Walt and Dash tried to prevent the events of Houdini’s death, but it was an entertaining read anyway.

From a writer’s perspective, this one is a great example to study to see how to use details to create a setting that comes alive for the reader.

Opening Line:

Not me, not me, not me—”  Dashiel Frederic Woolf sat completely still.


“The really good thing about a full-grown two-hundred-pound pig is that it is excellent camouflage for a lanky eleven-year-old, and both Dash and Walt fit that description.”

“Maybe the big lesson in all of this was that life could be as crummy in the past as it was in the present.”

“You will learn there are many ways to have a friendship, Dashiel. If distance alone kills it, it wasn’t a friendship in the first place.”

Other Info:

Michael Redhill lives in Toronto. Saving Houdini is his first book for children.

Looking for more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday books? Visit Shannon Messenger’s blog for a list of bloggers reviewing great books today! Shannon is the founder of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday and the author of the Keeper of the Lost Cities series.


  1. I remember seeing this book around. It sounds good and I really like time travel books. Sounds like a fun read.

  2. You had me at Toronto. well, that and Houdini. Sounds like a fun read.

  3. This one sounded so familiar and then I realized its been buried on my TBR list for some time. Thanks for the review and I've moved this title closer to the top.

  4. Well, I love both time travel and magic, and as a kid was fascinated by Houdini! This one's definitely for me.

  5. This sounds really intriguing! I love that they have to save Houdini. Books where there is a real historical person are some of my favorites. And there are too few books set in Toronto, especially historicals.

  6. This sounds like a book my grandson would just love. Thanks for telling me about it. It sounds fun.


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