Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Amazing Harry Kellar: Great American Magician

The Amazing Harry Kellar: Great American Magician

Gail Jarrow
For ages 10 and up
Boyds Mills Press, 2012   ISBN: 978-1590788653

Many people, even those who do not have an interest in magic shows, have heard about Harry Houdini. Houdini is often considered the greatest of America’s magicians, but there was a man who preceded Houdini who was less dramatic perhaps, but who performed for more years and who was greatly respected by his audiences and his peers. This man was Harry Kellar.

Kellar was the son of German immigrants who came to the United States in 1887. He was born in Pennsylvania, and his father hoped that Harry would become a druggist when he grew up. After the eleven-year-old apprentice druggist caused an explosion in the store where he worked, Harry decided to skip town.

After going from job to job for a while, Harry saw his first magic show and he was hooked. More than anything he wanted to learn how to be a magician. He was therefore thrilled when he was able to get a job working for the Fakir of Ava, the stage name of an Englishman called Isaiah Harris Hughes. Together Harry and his new master travelled around the northern states giving performances, and Harry practiced tricks over and over until he could do them without having to think about them much.

When he was eighteen, Harry tried going off on his own, but his shows were not polished enough and he was not a success, so he worked for the Davenport Brothers, another magic show, for a while. When he got tired of this, Harry and another young man who had worked for the brothers set off to form their own little show, and they were quite successful, traveling around the United States and to other countries such as Cuba and Argentina. After losing all their props and personal belongings when their ship hit a rock off the coast of France, Harry’s partner decided to leave. Harry loved doing magic too much to quit, so continued to perform, forming new partnerships with other magicians, and creating new shows.

After traveling around the world for several years, Harry was finally able to come back to the United States where he rented a theatre and amazed American audiences with his show. Wearing formal evening dress, Harry created a show that was “high-class” and “refined.” This was just the beginning for a man who became one of the most beloved American magicians of all time.

In this excellent title the author not only tells the story of Harry Kellar, but she also provides her readers with background information about magic tricks, magicians and more. She helps her readers to appreciate the world that Harry Kellar lived in. The story is accompanied by period photographs, illustrations, and reproductions of the posters that Harry Kellar had printed to advertise his shows and his tricks. The posters are beautiful full-color creations, and they help the reader to take a trip back in time.