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Review of Anything but Ordinary Addie: The True Story of Adelaide 
Herrmann, Queen of Magic

rockliff_anything-but-ordinary-addieAnything but Ordinary Addie: The True Story of Adelaide Herrmann, Queen of Magic
by Mara Rockliff; 
illus. by Iacopo Bruno
Primary, Intermediate    Candlewick    48 pp.
4/16    978-0-7636-6841-9    $17.99

Rockliff and Bruno (Mesmerized, rev. 1/15) bring the now-all-but-forgotten female magician Adelaide Herrmann back to center stage. Bold and spunky, Addie, in Rockliff’s strikingly vivid depiction, was always eager to stand out from the crowd, to “ASTONISH,” “SHOCK,” and “DAZZLE.” These three verbs pop up repeatedly in the eye-catchingly arranged text, where words slant and curve and grab attention thanks to larger type, decorative fonts, or placement (say, on the front of a drum). After stints as a ballet dancer and a bicycle-tricks performer, Addie met magician Alexander Herrmann. Addie proposed, they married, and she became his assistant: “He set fire to Addie. He chopped off her head. He made her vanish — (poof!) into thin air. The two of them got along splendidly.” After Alexander’s untimely death, Addie continued performing for more than thirty years, well into the early twentieth century. Rendered in pencil and colored digitally, Bruno’s illustrations are rich and dramatic and theatrically staged. Playful borders — velvet curtains, circus tent flaps, ship rigging — frame each spread, and thick white outlines create the look of paper-doll cutouts. It’s a memorable and, yes, I’ll say it, magical picture-book biography that will captivate audiences, young and old. Further biographical information and details about Addie’s memoir are appended.

From the September/October 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Tanya D. Auger

Tanya D. Auger is a former middle school teacher with a master’s degree in learning and teaching from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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