The Abracadabra Kid: A Writer's Life

The Abracadabra Kid: A Writer's Life

by Sid Fleischman

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Overview

The man with the spats rolled up his sleeves and proceeded to pluck a polished red billiard ball out of thin air. Presto! It vanished. Abracadabra! It reappeared. It turned white. it blushed red again. VoiIá! Suddenly there were four billiard balls between this amazing man's fingers.

I was stunned. All of this was happening right under my nose. And there was more. He flipped the deck into falling waterfalls of cards, spun them into fans, and thrust a sword through a shower of cards to impale the seven of diamonds — selected a moment before.

I was dazzled. The moment he finished his act and ushered us gawkers back onto the sidewalk, I knew what I wanted to be. Someone else could be president of the United States.

I wanted to be a magician.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780688148591
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/16/1996
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 626,670
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.77(d)
Lexile: 940L (what's this?)
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

Sid Fleischman wrote more than sixty books for children, adults, and magicians. Among his many awards was the Newbery Medal for his novel The Whipping Boy. The author described his wasted youth as a magician and newspaperman in his autobiography The Abracadabra Kid. His other titles include The Entertainer and the Dybbuk, a novel, and three biographies, Sir Charlie: Chaplin, The Funniest Man in the World; The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West; and Escape! The Story of The Great Houdini.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Fateful Nickel

Dear Sid Fleischman, I have read Mr. Mysterious & Company. It's the second best book I ever read.

I am astonished, when I pause to think about it, to discover myself to be an author of humorous novels for children. Or an author at all. I had a childhood much like everyone else's. What went wrong?

Few kids aspire to be writers when they grow up. When we are young, authors are unseen, ghostly presences. They certainly didn't hang around my neighborhood in San Diego when I was growing up. I was in my early twenties before I saw a live author.

During the Second World War the U.S. Navy briefly stationed me in New York City. Late one afternoon I stepped into an elevator and there stood Carl Sandburg. I recognized him at once and promptly quick-froze. I wanted desperately to say something profound, such as "Hello, Mr. Sandburg," but I was unable to thaw out my voice. it was a hot, humid summer day, and I did notice that the great American poet and Lincoln biographer was perspiring. That was my first clue that authors were human, like the rest of us.

And alive. From time to time my publisher sends along a letter from a child inquiring how long Sid Fleischman has been dead. There seems to be a kind of childhood folklore that all authors are dead. Or ought to be.

The role modeling just isn't there.

I became a writer quite by accident. in school I was being properly formatted to become a productive member of society, but I decided to become a magician instead.

I was in the fifth grade. The Great Depression was a dismal year old. Even a child couldsense that something was wrong, for many of the downtown shops had fallen dark as tombs. Still, San Diego, with its vast blue harbor, was luckier than most cities. It was the nesting place for the U.S. Navy Eleventh Fleet, and mercifully sailors on shore liberty had a few bucks to spend.

By a stroke of luck, my father, who'd been a child tailor in "the old country," had a shop on Fifth Avenue catering to sailor's needs-uniforms, boatswains' whistles, and other naval impedimenta. He was managing to survive, hanging on by his tobacco-stained fingernails.

One autumn day the large vacant store next door was hung like a stage set with gaudy canvas signs. A ten-in-one sideshow troop had moved in. The numbers described the procession of bizarre and wonderful features you could witness for a single admission.

My father gave me a fateful nickel to tour this storefront extravaganza, and my life changed forever. I was allowed past the velvet curtain. There, under the blazing lights, the first performer was about to drive a gleaming six-inch spike up his nose. I watched without the slightest inclination to go home and do likewise. What I envied about the spike man were the dove gray spats he wore tightly buckled over his shoes. They struck me as worldly and theatrical.

I quickly learned that everyone in the ten-in-one doubled or tripled as acts. The man with the spats, whose polka dot blue bow tic kept bobbing above a restless Adam's apple, became our guide through the wonders in the room. He introduced a pretty young woman named Wanda, who could throw her voice into a scuffed suitcase and did a vent act with a redheaded dummy. She reappeared after the fat lady, this time climbing into a packing case. The man with the spats ran swords through the box, yet moments later indestructible Wanda hopped back into view without a scratch.

The two pinhead freaks disturbed me, with their puzzled, spider monkey faces, and I was glad to move on around the room. By time Wanda reappeared a last time, I was smitten. Not only was she enchanting, but Wanda was a show biz Renaissance woman, for now, slipping into a coat of fringed buckskin, she did a sharpshooting act. Decades later I was to draw on her in creating the character of the sharpshooting Arizona Girl in my novel Jim Ugly.

But there was one more act. The man with the spats rolled up his sleeves and proceeded to pluck a polished red billiard ball out of thin air. Presto! It vanished. Abracadabra! It reappeared. it turned white. It blushed red again. Voila! Suddenly there were four billiard balls between this amazing man's fingers.

I was stunned. All of this was happening right under my nose. And there was more. He flipped the deck into falling waterfalls of cards, spun them into fans, and thrust a sword through a shower of cards to impale the seven of diamonds selected a moment before.

I was dazzled. The moment he finished his act and ushered us gawkers back onto the sidewalk, I knew what I wanted to be. Someone else could be president of the United States.

I wanted to be a magician.

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The Abracadabra Kid: A Writer's Life 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
TimBazzett on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There's nothing fancy about this memoir. It is pretty much, as Sgt Joe Friday used to say, "just the facts" - with generous dashes of humor thrown in. Fleischman is one of those guys from that so-called Greatest Generation. A Jewish kid transplanted to San Diego as a child, he tells his story, from his birth in 1920 thru the Depression and war and right up to the present day, in a pretty straightforward fashion. But he makes you laugh - a most important ingredient in memoir-writing. A magician from his preadolescent years, he takes his act on the road at fifteen, and subconsciously stashes away the memories he's making during those early years and writes about them well later. He does his time in the Navy - in the south Pacific - during WWII and is very matter-of-fact about that too, as were so many men from that generation. Then he came back home, finished college, learned to write by trial and error, and, quite incidentally it almost seems, becomes a bestselling award-winning children's author. This is a heck of a good story, and Sid Fleischman is, to my mind, a good and most admirable man. I recommend The Abracadabra Kid highly.
sdliz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Young magician turns into a writer in San Diego. Perfect recommendation for juvenile biography. A hoot to read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The beginning of  The Abracadabra Kid: A Writer’s Life--by Sid Fleischman--was very slow, but eventually the story picked up and got more interesting. I liked the fact that Sid explained a little bit about each of his family members. I also liked the end of The Abracadabra Kid when Sid Fleischman told the reader about turning his books into movies, and he gave some examples on how to become a good writer. However, I disliked how most of the book was him becoming a magician, but he kept saying I didn't know that I would become a writer like this. It was annoying. I just wanted to read about him becoming an author. Another part of the book I disliked was how he explained every book he wrote in detail. I would encourage people that want to become authors to read this book; however, if you do not want to become an author, or are not interested in writing, I would suggest you not read it. I give this book three stars; it is an okay read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
       Poof! Abracadabra! I am the master of magic.The Abracadabra Kid  written by Sidney Fleischman is about Sidney wanting to  pursue his dream of becoming a magician when he was a little boy. As his life went on he finally got to become his dream; he became the magician he always wanted to be. He was incredibly excellent as magic. He met some interesting people when he started his career. Throughout his life he stayed as a magician and forever a magician. Then, there was a day that he thought that something wasn’t right about him being a magician anymore. After that he completely changed his career and his dream around. The imagery the author describes in this book grabbed my attention because whenever I read a page that had imagery I could picture a scene in my head of what he was describing, his imagery. Adult writers probably would understand this book because it’s about changing your dreams and then teenagers would like this book because of him becoming a magician.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked this book, almost at random, for a non-fiction book report in my English class. I was surprised to find that it really wasn't so bad. Basically, it's an account of an author's life- from his childhood start as a magician, then his time in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific during WWII, to being a children's author. It's an autobiography, and the author has a good enough voice to make it interesting. Not the best book in the entire world, but pretty good.
Guest More than 1 year ago
it was the worst book ever! i would never read it again even if i was paid to! I HATE IT I HATE IT I HATE IT! If there was a star for 0 that's what i would give it!