Harry Houdini

ISBN 9781419738623.
Gr 3-7–This series presents a lighthearted and easy look at some of the world’s most famous celebrities. The informal tone and accompanying cartoon illustrations give these texts the feel of biographies that can be read for pleasure, while the level of detail ensures that the information is accurate. The first two books are written in a narrative style, and because the text is broken up with frequent illustrations, they do not come off as intimidating, textbook-heavy reads. The writing is also supported with time lines, glossaries, and bibliographies in the back, should readers want further information. The main weakness of the series is the lack of primary source material. Because there are no photographs or portraits, the stories come off as a little disingenuous. Nonfiction books can be especially impactful when they are accompanied with beautiful, full-color pictures, letters, and maps. Since these books have only cartoons, readers may feel disconnected from the real historical figures and the times in which they lived. The illustrations may prove to be comforting for fiction readers who enjoy diary style series like Jeff Kinney’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and Rachel Renée Russell’s “Dork Diaries.”
VERDICT While telling interesting stories, these books could be better supported with higher quality, varied visuals. The reading experience would be enhanced with photographic depictions of the people being described, instead of exclusively using exaggerated caricature

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