Rockliff, Mara. Anything But Ordinary Addie: The True Story of Adelaide Herrmann, Queen of Magic. Iacopo Bruno, Illus. Biography. Candlewick, 04/2016. pp. $17.99. 978-0-7636-6841-9. OUTSTANDING. GRADES 1-5.
One of the world’s great magicians is rescued from obscurity in this beautifully designed and illustrated book about Adelaide Herrmann. She began life on the stage early and joined her husband, Alexander Herrmann, in his magic act. After his death, she took over the act and continued performing until the end of her life in 1932. While the story doesn’t provide enough biographical or historical detail for reports, it is perfect for reading aloud with its large, vivid spreads and design elements by illustrator Iacopo Bruno (Mesmerized, 2015, also with Rockliff) and juicy word choices that spice up the text. The story is spare but keeps to the interesting bits for the intended first through fifth grade audience: Addie gets shot from a cannon when an acrobat doesn’t show up for a performance; Addie attempts the bullet-catching trick to build her audience. Young readers may need some context for the world that Herrmann came from, late 19th to early 20th centuries. In those days, proper young ladies weren’t riding bicycles on stage while wearing tights and short bloomers. Two author’s notes offer more information, including the story of how Adelaide Herrmann’s memoir was finally discovered after decades of being presumed lost.
Emma Coleman, Berkeley PL