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.
About the Author
Peter Johnson grew up in Buffalo, New York, at a time when they had a good football team, which seems like fifty years ago. Similar to Benny Alvarez and his friends, Peter always loved words, knowing he was going to be a teacher or a professional baseball player. Also, being from a long line of Irish storytellers, he loved reading and telling tales, and when he realized that his stories changed every time he told them, and that he could get paid for this kind of lying, he decided to become a novelist. His first middle grade novel, The Amazing Adventures of John Smith, Jr. AKA Houdini, was named one of the Best Children's Books by Kirkus Reviews, and he's received many writing fellowships, most notably from the National Endowment for the Arts.
“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.’”
— Publishers Weekly
“A bit grittier and more believably boylike than most contemporary first-person narratives, this novel has a lot of heart as well. And while a narrator who makes lists is common enough, Houdini’s are decidedly more amusing than most.”
“The perfect book for adolescent readers—especially boys—who like humor combined with characters that seem completely real. [A] satisfying novel that will leave readers happy they met Houdini.”
— Providence Journal
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