Lalicki, Tom 1949–
Lalicki, Tom 1949–
(Tom L. Matthews)
Born 1949, in Scranton, PA; married; wife's name Barbara. Education: Brooklyn College, graduated. Hobbies and other interests: Indian cooking, photography and digital manipulation of images, travel, gardening.
Home—Westchester County, NY. E-mail—[email protected]
Author. Author and director of corporate videos for twenty years.
Authors Guild, Authors League.
Best Books for Young Adults selection, American Library Association, for Spellbinder; Notable Social Studies Trade Book designation, National Council for the Social Studies/Children's Book Council, and 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing selection, New York Public Library, both for Always Inventing; Best Children's Book selection, Bank Street College of Education, 2007, for Danger in the Dark.
"HOUDINI AND NATE" SERIES; FICTION
Danger in the Dark, illustrated by Carlyn Cerniglia, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2006.
Shots at Sea, illustrated by Carlyn Cerniglia, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2007.
Spellbinder: The Life of Harry Houdini, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2000.
Grierson's Raid: A Daring Cavalry Strike through the Heart of the Confederacy, illustrated with maps by David Cain, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2004.
NONFICTION; UNDER NAME TOM L. MATTHEWS
Light Shining through the Mist: A Photobiography of Dian Fossey, National Geographic (Washington, DC), 1998.
Always Inventing: A Photobiography of Alexander Graham Bell, National Geographic (Washington, DC), 1999.
Tom Lalicki is the author of a number of critically acclaimed works of fiction and nonfiction. His interest in famed magician and escape artist Harry Houdini led him to write Spellbinder: The Life of Harry Houdini, as well as the young-adult novels Danger in the Dark and Shots at Sea, two books in his "Houdini and Nate Mystery" series. Lalicki has also published Grierson's Raid: A Daring Cavalry Strike through the Heart of the Confederacy, an account of a Union raid during the U.S. Civil War. Writing as Tom L. Matthews, Lalicki has also produced biographies of scientists Dian Fossey and Alexander Graham Bell.
Lalicki's passion for literature began at the age of eleven, when he was bedridden for several months after breaking bones in his foot, ankle, and leg. "Month after month, I had nothing to do but read all the books a thoughtful teacher delivered every week," Lalicki recalled on his home page. "Thus began a lifelong love of history, biography and historical fiction—interrupted by a business career." Lalicki worked as a writer and director of corporate videos for twenty years before attempting his first book, Light Shining through the Mist: A Photobiography of Dian Fossey. As the author admitted, "I've certainly never regretted making the switch."
In Light Shining through the Mist, Lalicki explores the controversial career of primatologist Fossey, who founded the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda and dedicated her life to the preservation of mountain gorillas. Roger Sutton, writing in Horn Book, stated that the narrative "does a fine job of tracing the life of a troubled woman." A reviewer in Publishers Weekly applauded Lalicki's "flowing text and stunning photos," adding that his "fascinating biography will surely snare the attention of young animal lovers and aspiring anthropologists." The inventor of the telephone is the subject of Always Inventing: A Photobiography of Alexander Graham Bell. According to a contributor in Horn Book, "Bell's inexhaustible curiosity emerges as his wide range of experiments are outlined" in Lalicki's text.
In Grierson's Raid Lalicki recounts an 1863 expedition, led by Colonel Benjamin H. Grierson, into Mississippi and Alabama. For sixteen days Union soldiers damaged rail lines, destroyed bridges, and disrupted communications; the campaign successfully diverted the attention of Confederate commanders before the siege of Vicksburg. Booklist reviewer Ed Sullivan described the work as "accessibly written and scrupulously researched," and in School Library Journal Elizabeth M. Reardon remarked that Grierson's Raid "is told in an accessible style that reads more like an adventure story than a history text."
While researching Spellbinder, Lalicki noted on the Farrar, Straus & Giroux Web site, "it became clear that Houdini was an A-plus celebrity before the A-list was invented…. [and] has a hold on the popular psyche unsurpassed by any of his contemporaries. Even so, while everyone knows the name Houdini, very few people know anything real about him." In his biography, Lalicki examines not only Houdini's feats of daring, including the Chinese Water-Torture Cell escape, but also his personal life, from his childhood in Wisconsin to his death in 1926. "Lalicki successfully presents Houdini as a man remarkable for his confidence, determination, and hard work," Phelan commented, and a Publishers Weekly critic stated that "readers will be inspired by both Houdini's magic and enduring mysteries and by this subject's timeless message about the power of hard work and dedication."
Lalicki's debut work of fiction, Danger in the Dark, centers on the relationship between Houdini and Nate Fuller, a young clerk working in Manhattan. After Nate meets David Douglas Trane, an unsavory gentleman who holds late-night seances in his family's parlor, he suspects foul play and enlists the help of the celebrated daredevil to expose the charlatan. "The action is non-stop," commented Francisca Goldsmith in Booklist, and Connie Tyrell Burns, reviewing Danger in the Dark for School Library Journal, stated that Lalicki "brings the period to life with many historical references." In a sequel, Shots at Sea, Houdini and Nate board the ocean liner Lusitania to order to prevent the assassination of former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. "Readers interested in fiction with historical characters will drink this one up," noted a Kirkus Reviews critic.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, September 15, 1998, Carolyn Phelan, review of Light Shining through the Mist: A Photobiography of Dian Fossey, p. 223; June 1, 1999, Carolyn Phelan, review of Always Inventing: A Photobiography of Alexander Graham Bell, p. 1822; September 1, 2000, Carolyn Phelan, review of Spellbinder: The Life of Harry Houdini, p. 110; August, 2004, Ed Sullivan, review of Grierson's Raid: A Daring Cavalry Strike through the Heart of the Confederacy, p. 1917; November 15, 2006, Francisca Goldsmith, review of Danger in the Dark, p. 48.
Horn Book, September-October, 1998, Roger Sutton, review of Light Shining through the Mist, p. 622; July, 1999, review of Always Inventing, p. 481; July-August, 2004, Betty Carter, review of Grierson's Raid, p. 468.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2004, review of Grierson's Raid, p. 225; September 15, 2006, review of Danger in the Dark, p. 959; September 1, 2007, review of Shots at Sea.
Publishers Weekly, June 22, 1998, review of Light Shining through the Mist, p. 93; July 17, 2000, review of Spellbinder, p. 197.
School Library Journal, September, 2000, Carol Fazioli, review of Spellbinder, p. 250; December, 2001, Kathleen Baxter, "We Could Be Heroes," review of Spellbinder, p. 39; June, 2004, Elizabeth M. Reardon, review of Grierson's Raid, p. 168; September, 2005, Kathleen Baxter, review of Grierson's Raid, p. 35; October, 2006, Connie Tyrrell Burns, review of Danger in the Dark, p. 160.
Farrar, Straus & Giroux Web site,http://www.fsgkidsbooks.com/ (January 1, 2008), "Q&A with Tom Lalicki."
Kidsreads.com,http://www.kidsreads.com/ (December 1, 2007), Robert Oksner, review of Danger in the Dark.
Tom Lalicki Home Page,http://www.houdiniandnate.com (December 1, 2007).