Thursday, March 13, 2008

Houdini Week

It's been a good week, watching the snow melt. That could, along with those time-honored activities of watching paint dry and grass grow, be another cliché of boredom. (And yet there's an interesting article about paint drying and other things.) I was on the phone recently with someone in a slightly warmer climate, and he asked if there were any signs of spring here in northern Illinois. "The snow has almost melted," I said.

But not quite. For example, during the weeks of February snow, plows created three enormous snow-ice piles off a parking lot that I visit often. Each was taller than I am, and as broad as a compact car. Today I noticed that these same parking-lot massifs were about half as tall as I am.

Last week was Houdini Week here. That is, there was a fair amount of discussion of Houdini because Lilly was doing a report based on Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini (2006), a children's book by Sid Fleischman. She'd been assigned a report on a biography of her choice from the library. She asked for my help in picking something, and I told her the only ground rule for my participation would be that the book couldn't be about a movie star -- unless he or she was dead.

Together we came up with Houdini, someone she hadn't heard of before, and I figure that's probably true for most of her class. She had to write five paragraphs, and while I made a few suggestions, I had to hold back my full arsenal of professional editing skills. It wasn't, after all, supposed to be one of my articles.

I'm happy to say she got an A. Without further ado or changes by me, here it is in italics.

Harry Houdini

By Lilly Stribling

Harry Houdini did many things that other magicians couldn’t do. He could escape jail cells, chains, and could walk thought a brick wall without getting hurt. Houdini was born March 24, 1874 and was born in Budapest, Hungary. People thought he was born in Appleton, Wisconsin because he said he was born there. When he was younger, he was called Erik. When he was older, he ran away from home and he was a messenger. Houdini got married at 18 to a woman named Beatrice Rahner. He got married after his father died.

His dad got kicked out of his job because his father was too old school. After his father lost his job, they got poor. So Houdini ran away from home. When he planned to run away, he forgot to bring food or clothes. He met Mrs. Flitcroft, and gave him a place to sleep and fed him. Houdini wrote on a postcard to his mother, and it said he wanted to go to Galveston, Texas.

Houdini overcame his problems by first becoming an athlete and he got a job at a necktie factory. He saw live entertainment and that’s why he wanted to be a magician. He met another man, who was named Jacob Haymen, who was an amateur magician who helped Houdini a little.

Houdini was famous because he could do tricks that other magicians couldn’t do. One of Houdini’s main accomplishments were that he made up dangerous tricks, and he became popular because he did dangerous tricks that were interesting. Houdini had some other achievements too. He created the tricks on his own, and he became a very good magician.

I think my person is courageous because he did many dangerous things like hold his breath for more than three minutes in a box filled with water. The interesting thing about my person that I thought was, he died on Halloween, and not many people die on Halloween.


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