Sid Fleischman’s Life
The Abracadabra Kid: A Writer’s Life by Sid Fleischman, author of By The Great Horn Spoon, The Whipping Boy, Chancy and the Grand Rascal, and many more children’s books .This was a fascinating book to read, since I’ve enjoyed Fleischman’s sense of humor in his other books, and he was one of my son’s favorite authors. He seems to specialize in books that are a cross between historical fiction and tall tales. His tongue must be firmly in his cheek as he writes, and one wonders how he developed as a writer — and not only a writer, but one who received the coveted Newbery Medal. (Did you know his son Paul also became a writer and won the Newbery Award?)
Fleischman grew up during the Great Depression, taught himself magic when he was in the fifth grade, and traveled with a vaudeville show after high school. It never occurred to him he might be a writer. He had always planned to be a magician. In The Abracadabra Kid: A Writer’s Life, Fleischman shares the factors that turned him from magic to writing. (And he didn’t start out as a juvenile writer, either.) As you read about his life, you will discover where he got a lot of the characters and plots you’ve seen in his books. I would recommend this book to boys who are interested in magic or other hands-on activities, though girls would also enjoy it. It could also be useful as a family read-aloud if the youngest child is at least second or third grade. And, of course, Fleischman fans and aspiring writers would also be motivated to read it. BTH-5657
Other Books by Sid Fleischman I Enjoyed
By the Great Horn Spoon by Sid Fleischman. This is set in 1849 during the California Gold Rush. It’s highly unlikely that a young man of twelve would stow away on a ship bound for the gold fields with his butler, both hidden in potato barrels, with the hope of striking it rich and saving his aunt’s fortune. But that’s how this adventure begins, and you’ll be hooked before you finish the first few pages as you watch the butler, Praiseworthy, talk his way through almost any situation, beginning with their discovery as stow-aways. Praiseworthy believes that even in the rowdy gold camps brains are better than brawn for solving problems, and you’ll laugh as he manages to find ways out of all the scrapes he and his young master Jack get themselves into. This is fun for anyone grade four and above, and ties in well with studies of California history. BTH-5656
Chancy and the Grand Rascal Publisher summary: Skinny Chancy and his newly found friend, the great rascal, enjoy humorous escapades as they travel by their wits up and across the midwest in search of Chancy’s family. 182 pages. BTH-5655.
The Ghost on Saturday Night by Sid Fleischman, illustrated by Laura Cornell. Another humorous tall tale by Fleischman. Professor Pepper says he will raise the ghost of a dead outlaw live on stage, but Opie and Aunt Etta suspect funny business. 53 pages. BTH-3484
The Whipping Boy, trade paper. Jemmy is a poor boy, who used to live on the streets until he was brought to live in the castle as the whipping boy for Prince Brat. It was against the law to discipline the prince himself, so when the prince misbehaved, the whipping boy was punished instead. But one night, the bored young prince decided to run away, and commanded Jemmy to come along as his manservant. Almost immediately after running away, the two are captured by a cutthroat, and although they don’t like each other, they have to learn to trust each other and work together.
The Whipping Boy was light, funny, and just right, a quick read. Although most of us wince at the injustice of a lad pulled from the streets to take the punishment for everything the naughty prince does, it is satisfying to see Prince Brat (as he’s not so fondly known by his subjects) get his comeuppance and also learn to see himself as others see him. Knowing the truth about himself motivates him to start changing into what a good prince ought to be — someone his people actually want to be king someday. And I like to believe that when he starts applying himself to his studies and thinking of others at least as much as himself, he will no longer be bored. Buy The Whipping Boy here. A Newbery Medal winner in 1987.