Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

I, Houdini

I, Houdini

Lynne Reid Banks
For ages 8 to 12
Random, 2003   ISBN: 978-0440419242

There is no doubt that Houdini is a most unusual creature. On the outside he looks like a very normal hamster, however on the inside there is nothing normal about him. He is a hamster with an advanced vocabulary, and a very high opinion of his own superior brain power. There is no doubt, in Houdini’s mind, that hamsters are a higher form of life than humans.

In spite of his rather inflated ego, Houdini is, generally speaking, a kind hearted creature and he tolerates the bumbling ways of humans well enough. What is hard for him to tolerate is their tendency to want to lock him up in a cage. If there is anything Houdini does not like, it is to be locked up. It is in fact his amazing ability to escape his cage that got him his name. Houdini is an escapologist of the very highest order.

Houdini also tends to reap chaos in his wake, which makes him most unpopular with the father of the boys who own him. Father becomes enraged when Houdini chews electrical wire, carpeting and a door, and when he finally causes a flood in the kitchen. It is all too much. Even Houdini has to admit that Father has just cause to be a bit upset. Thus it is that Houdini is packed off to stay with a friend for a while, just until Father has time to cool off. Ben has a hamster called Oggi, a female who humiliates Houdini dreadfully. Houdini is soon on the loose, once again, and this time he does the most amazing thing; Houdini goes out into the great Outside.

Never in his wildest dreams did Houdini imagine that the great Outside would be so wonderful. What he comes to learn is that Outside is also terribly dangerous and unpredictable. Why, Houdini could very easily become someone’s lunch or dinner out there.

In this funny, yet thoughtful, book, Lynne Reid Banks takes us into the mind, and heart, of a very brilliant, delightful character. At the same time Houdini has his flaws, just like the rest of us. What is endearing about him is that he is willing to admit that he does. He is also willing to admit that he makes mistakes. Using rich and complex language, the author never talks down to her readers but expects them to understand what her wonderful, often grandiose, hamster is saying. We cannot help but grow fond of this ambitious rodent, who discovers that there is a power far greater even than his own will to escape from every cage he is put into.