The Amazing Adventures of John Smith, Jr. Aka Houdini (Hardcover)
Inspired by the classroom visit of a writer, a thirteen- year-old learns to be observant and writes a novel about his friends and enemies and their families, including a brother in Iraq. (9-12)
— From Today
For fans of Jerry Spinelli's Maniac Magee, Gary D. Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars, and Jack Gantos's Joey Pigza Books comes a hilarious and poignant slice-of-life novel from critically acclaimed author and poet Peter Johnson.
When an author comes to speak to his class in a rundown area of Providence, Houdini decides to make money by writing his own novel. Houdini chronicles his life as he and his friends start a leaf-raking business, befriend Old Man Jackson (a Vietnam War veteran with a seriously intimidating dog), and get even with the neighborhood bully, Angel. But it's hard to find a way to write about his dad losing his job or his brother, Franklin, who is first reported missing in action in Iraq and then still seems to be missing when he comes home.
No matter what, Houdini and his friends rely on one another to figure out how to do the right thing. And Houdini discovers that writing and thinking about his friends and family lets him get to know them in completely new ways.
A middle-schooler writes a kids’ novel; an author writes an engaging, amiable read-and, presto, a tale about a boy nicknamed Houdini turns out magical....By turns poignant and downright hilarious, Houdini’s story/novel is delivered in a voice that’s wonderfully authentic.
-Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Johnson (Loserville) delivers a strong contemporary urban novel with cross-gender appeal...Johnson offers solid insights into the varied well-drawn characters, and readers will appreciate Houdini’s realization that “writing makes you think very hard about things.”
A bit grittier and more believably boylike than most contemporary first-person narratives, this novel has a lot ofheart as well. And while a narrator who makes lists is common enough, Houdini’s are decidedly moreamusing than most.