Monday, May 5, 2014

The Amazing Harry Kellar: Great American Magician by Gail Jarrow

Do you believe in magic? (Insert song reference here and get ready to learn about the greatest magician of all time)

Let me set the mood before we delved into the book. Let’s go back in time. A time where there was no movies, radio, television or even….the internet (dun dun duuuuun). The way that people would be able to be entertained was through public shows in lecture halls or opera houses. Before mainstream media, beautifully made posters with vibrant colors were seen on fences and on buildings announcing a show. One of those shows and people that would incite great commotion was Harry Kellar. 

Gail Jarrow does a great job in telling the story of America’s most famous magician in this short and illustrated biography.

While many magicians would travel from abroad (most magicians during this period of time came from Europe) to mesmerize audiences with their illusions and grandeur shows, Kellar was unable to perform his tricks in his native land without acquiring recognition first. Born in Erie, Pennsylvania, Kellar had to tour in other continents with his magic show long before he was able to perform in his native land. 

Readers are going to be able to see the posters that Kellar used to advertise his shows as well as photographs of the time. This book would be greatly used in a middle school classroom. What is the most interesting part of the book is that Kellar was the magician that paved the way for many other famous and successful acts, one of which was the famous Harry Houdini. 

Pros: Fun, short and great. Illustrations are great to help the reader get the real life context of the time period that Kellar resided in. It’s a good book for students to use as a stepping stone to biographical reports. The language is easy to comprehend.

Cons: (not really a con) there is no telling the reader how the tricks worked [not a literary critique but I was sad because I was not told how to levitate a person]

The best part of this book was knowing that Kellar was Houdini's mentor: 

A page made for anyone that wants to know about magicians and their life should go to this page. There is more information on Kellar on here:

PBS has an info page on Kellar that is worth the read:

To get more information on America's most famous magician, go to the author's page. There, you will be able to find more information on Kellar and fun illustrations as well:

Here is a fun video on Harry Kellar:


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