Green Bean Books

Harry and the Highwire

Written by Julie Carpenter

Illustrated by Laura Catalan

Price: £10.99

Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781784388362

Highlights

  • A fun and inspirational children’s story about the young Harry Houdini’s attempts to walk the tightrope 
  • A beautifully illustrated concertina book that folds out to a remarkable 4m wide and allows the reader to follow a tightrope running continuously through 
  • Highlights what first influenced the legendary Jewish escape artist 
  • Teaches the importance of practice and perseverance, of believing in yourself and trying to make your dreams a reality 

Description

‘Julie Carpenter’s inspiring story of Houdini shows how, like him, we can open the locks and dance on the high wire. It’s only a matter of practice. And believing in yourself.’ — Eric Kimmel

As a young boy of seven, Harry is desperate to do something incredible – but what? A visit to the circus provides the answer when he sees the daring tightrope walker thrilling the audience. From that moment on, all Harry wants to do is to walk the tightrope. But how?

His first try, on the family clothesline, ends in disaster but Harry’s not about to give up yet. He starts practising in his every spare moment and in every location he can think of. Will he get to the other side or will he fall? (And will his pet chicken Banjoe be able to keep up?)

An inspiring tale about one of history’s most fascinating figures, Harry and the High-wire is essential reading for children, teaching them about the importance of ambition, hard work and, crucially, of believing in yourself, even when things seem impossible.

The reverse side of this fun, fully fold-out book includes a biography and illustrated timeline of Houdini’s life, along with a focus on three of his most famous tricks (and hints on how he did them).

Author Details

Julie Carpenter is a journalist, writer and editor of over 20 years experience. After gaining a masters degree from Oxford University, she started out as a gossip columnist on The Daily Express. She then became a feature writer and theatre critic there for many years. She has also written news, comment, travel, magazine and lifestyle articles and contributed a regular Sunday Express column. Since having her own children, she found herself re- immersed in the wonderful world of children’s literature and began editing for Green Bean Books. Harry and the High-wire is her first children’s story.

Illustrator Details

Laura Catalán studied Anthropology at university before going on to pursue a more artistic path, starting with some classic drawing lessons in Cercle Artistic Sant Lluç in Barcelona while taking part in workshops for children’s illustration. She has illustrated numerous fiction books and educational material for Spanish, UK and US publishing houses. Her picture books include Two Peas in a Pod, The Naughty Spectre and Daughter of the God Sülde and, for Green Bean Books, The Chocolate King.

Reviews

‘Picture book biography Harry and The High Wire takes place during Houdini’s childhood, when he became enthralled with a tightrope walking act at the circus. For an ordinary boy, this taste of the extraordinary sparked his first interest in the performative arts… The fully fold-out book is cleverly laid out so that the art continues on the pages that eventually lay out to 4 meters wide (that’s 157.48 inches to us Americans). The art flows to these wider spreads with a lamp wire becoming a clothesline, flowing into a tree and then a tightrope. The engaging drawings feature different points of view, including an aerial shot looking down at Harry on the high-wire. Great attention to detail gives the art a welcoming, familiar feel. One side of the fold-out is the story of Harry learning to walk the high wire; the other side offers a peek into some of his amazing tricks, a timeline, and a biography.  
 
Harry and the High Wire has literary merit and positive, authentic Jewish content. Houdini’s family is celebrating Shabbat in the story’s opening. The males, including Houdini’s rabbi father, all wear kippot. Candlesticks, challah, a kiddush cup and matzo ball soup complete the scene. Another spread takes place at the family’s synagogue. Houdini’s Judaism is not central to the plot, but rather part of a community life rich with tradition and meaning. This book meets the criteria for the Sydney Taylor Book Award.’  – Shanna Silva, Sydney Taylor Schmooze.com

‘Most adults know about the great magician Harry Houdini. But how did he get his start? Julie Carpenter’s clever biography picture book relates how Houdini fell in love with the idea of performing at the age of seven, when he saw a highwire act at the circus. He practiced over and over through the seasons until he could actually master the art. The illustrations by Laura Catalan are simple, bright and inviting. Each picture sits side by side on a long fold out. Harry starts practicing on a clothesline which becomes a rope and eventually a wire and this tightrope meanders in one continuous line across the panels tying the illustrations together. This sweet story gives us a glimpse at the man’s early childhood and his first experience as a performer. But the story is actually more about the theme, hard work and perseverance will help lead to success. The flip side of the fold out contains a time line about Houdini’s life and explanations of some of his most famous tricks. I have read a lot of children’s biographies and this is one of the most charming that I have come across.’ – StoryBook Lady (Posted on Amazon.com and GoodReads)

‘After seeing The Great Weitzman walk the tightrope at a circus, a boy called Harry is inspired to emulate him. He begins with the washing line at home – but many falls lie between him and success. Harry and the Highwire, Houdini’s First Amazing Act by Julie Carpenter has an innovative fold-out structure. Side A is a joyful picture book, with playful graphics, and intricate illustrations by Laura Catalán. Side B, for older readers, provides a fabulously decorated timeline and discusses some of Houdini’s most impressive illusions, such as the vanishing elephant. Age five to adult.’ — Angela Kiverstein, The Jewish Chronicle

‘This pic­ture book biog­ra­phy begins with a quote from Pirkei Avot that cap­tures famed magi­cian Har­ry Houdini’s epic per­sis­tence: ​“Accord­ing to the effort is the reward.” For­mer­ly named Ehrich Weiss, Hou­di­ni was born in Budapest, where his father was a rab­bi. Julie Car­pen­ter and Lau­ra Catalán show us a young Har­ry who is awed by the first cir­cus per­for­mance he wit­ness­es, and who wants to imi­tate the bound­less free­dom of its artists. Even­tu­al­ly, his refusal to give up trans­forms his life and the field of mag­ic at large.

Encour­aged by ​“the Great Weitz­man,” the tightrope walk­er who inspired him, Har­ry leaves the show and imme­di­ate­ly begins to think about chang­ing his ordi­nary envi­ron­ment into a spec­ta­cle — an unortho­dox pur­suit that his moth­er sup­ports. A clothes­line becomes a chance to walk on air, even though his first attempt ends with Har­ry lying flat under a string of gar­ments. He doesn’t give up. He strings an ordi­nary rope every­where, even between trees out­side his syn­a­gogue. On the wall of his Hebrew school is a quote from Rab­bi Nach­man of Breslov: ​“All the world is a very nar­row bridge.” Tak­ing this advice both lit­er­al­ly and fig­u­ra­tive­ly, Har­ry refus­es to be held back by heat, cold, rain, wind, or even a lack of confidence.

Carpenter’s lan­guage is sim­ple and direct, and Catalán’s pic­tures allow for shifts between char­ac­ters’ per­spec­tives. In one image, Har­ry is stand­ing on the top rung of a lad­der that’s lean­ing against his home. His neigh­bors are look­ing up toward him and talk­ing among them­selves. Then, as he walks across the high­wire, the peo­ple in the crowd below crane their necks to look up at the young boy who seems to be defy­ing grav­i­ty. The sto­ry and illus­tra­tions con­vey both Harry’s indi­vid­ual sense of com­mit­ment and the community’s faith in his dream.’ — Emily Schneider, Jewish Book Council

‘A delightful and well-done Houdini book for children.’ —wildabouthoudini.com

‘After seeing The Great Weitzman walk the tightrope at a circus, a boy called Harry is inspired to emulate him. He begins with the washing line at home – but many falls lie between him and success. Harry and the Highwire, Houdini’s First Amazing Act by Julie Carpenter has an innovative fold-out structure. Side A is a joyful picture book, with playful graphics, and intricate illustrations by Laura Catalán. Side B, for older readers, provides a fabulously decorated timeline and discusses some of Houdini’s most impressive illusions, such as the vanishing elephant. Age five to adult.’ — Angela Kiverstein, The Jewish Chronicle

’This unique book, which opens like a concertina to 4 metres wide, holds an inspiring tale, outlining the progress that Harry goes through to become the performer as which he is known throughout the world. One side of the concertina tells of his determination to be a daring tight-rope walker, and an escape artist.  The reverse side of this fun, fully fold-out book includes a biography, and full and colourful illustrations of his life and tricks… An amazing book for 5-10 year olds.’ —Hilary Schuman, West London Synagogue