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

Rockliff, Mara. Anything but Ordinary Addie: The True Story of Adelaide Herrmann, Queen of Magic. Illus. Iacopo Bruno. Candlewick, 2016. $17.99. 48p. 9780763668419. Ages 6-9. P9Q9

Rockliff Anything But Ordinary AddieMagicians are generally depicted as male, but Adelaide Herrmann broke this tradition when she met her future husband on a ship to the United States after she joined a dance troupe that performed in Europe. She and Alexander, aka Herrmann the Great, became partners in marriage and life as “he set fire to Addie. He chopped off her head. . . . The two of them got along splendidly.” Disaster didn’t take her off the stage after he died of a heart attack, and she captivated her audiences even more by performing the dangerous “bullet catch” trick. Grandiose illustrations creating a three-dimensional feel represent ship’s rigging, the stages of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and audience members, and the flamboyant fonts honor Addie’s independence and life in the spotlight. An author’s note with list of resources give more information about this fantastic woman who kept performing until she was 75, just four years before her death in 1932. She never wanted to be ordinary, and she never was.

April 2016 review by Nel Ward.

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