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The Amazing Adventures of John Smith, Jr. aka Houdini


After a children’s author visits his school, John Smith, Jr., aka Houdini, decides to write a children’s book using the advice of that author, including the necessity of adding lists to his book. Houdini chronicles his life as he and his two friends navigate their lives through a leaf-raking business, bouts with the neighborhood bully, a scary Vietnam War vet neighbor, and the fear that comes when Houdini’s older brother is reported Missing in Iraq.

While he may not have all the answers, Houdini finds that writing about his life may just help him figure things out. Boys will like the short chapters that deal with real issues in a way real boys deal with life. A caution: deals with subjects that are possibly mature: war; post traumatic stress syndrome; mild curses (freaking)

“The more closely I looked at people, the more I felt I could see into their heads. Although all this thinking wasn’t getting my novel written, it did remind me of what Mr. Peterson said about how writing changes the way you look at the world.”

ISBN: 978-0-06-198890-5 168 pages Ages 10 - 13

Recommended by: Alice Cyphers, Librarian, PA USA


"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."--from the publisher

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