Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts

Courtney  Brandt

Link to Courtney Brandt's Senior Art Thesis

Edward  Eager

Edward Eager: The Magical Lessons of Childhood

More than Just a Magician: The Life of Harry Houdini

“…That’s not the way magic is. It’s like some people. It never does what you want it to exactly, but it’s never been really mean before. Somehow it always works out in the end.” (Magic by the Lake 172). Edward Eager was inspired to write children’s literature while looking for a bed time story to read to his son. He wanted young readers to enjoy his characters’ magical adventures, but also to realize that wishes don’t always come true. In every story children are the main characters and they are given the magical power to make wishes. Using the magic, they travel on adventures and each adventure ends with one of the children learning an important lesson such as teamwork, compassion, or selflessness. The main message that overlaps all of the other themes throughout the series is the idea that growing up is not easy. The children never obtain exactly what they want through just a wish. They only receive half of what they wish for, leaving them to work for the other half. This models for Eager’s young readers that people must be inspired by their hopes to accomplish anything.

Harry Houdini was a famous magician, best known for his illusions and escape acts. His early years were not easy; he was an immigrant to America from a poor Hungarian family. He started working at a young age to support his family. He began practicing magic as a hobby but in the late 1800s found his niche in Vaudeville, a style of multi-act theatre that specialized in variety shows. Audiences loved Harry’s performances; his talent and charisma amazed them. Harry was more than a magician, however. After the death of his mother he developed an interest in Spiritualism, a belief that the living could contact the dead, Later, however, he used his fame and experience with magic to publicly expose fraudulent mediums all across America, and encouraged people not to fall for their scams. Houdini proved to the world that he was more than just a magician; he was a crusader for honesty, integrity, and respect. He felt it was his responsibility to protect those who were grieving their lost ones from being taken advantage of by people posing as true mediums.

Major Works Consulted:

Eager, Edward. Half Magic. New York: Harcourt, 1999.
---. A Knight’s Castle. New York: Harcourt, 1999. Harry Houdini. Vol. 11 of The American National Biography. New York: Oxford UP, 1999.
“PBS Online: People and Events.” Harry Houdini (1874-1926). 1999. (27 January 2006).
Photo Credit: Gale, Thomas, ed. Contemporary Authors. Detroit: Gale, 1979