English Professor's Novel Honored with Additional Awards
As the author of several collections of poetry, short stories, and novels, Dr. Peter M. Johnson, Providence College professor of English, has received his fair share of writing acclaim. It’s safe to say that his latest work, The Amazing Adventures of John Smith, Jr. AKA Houdini (HarperCollins, 2012), has garnered the most attention.
Last September, the novel was chosen by the Rhode Island Center for the Book to represent the state at the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. It was also chosen by Kirkus Reviews as one of the “Best Children’s Books of 2012.”
This spring, Houdini has received three additional accolades. It was named the 2013 Children’s Book Committee/Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book of the Year; was nominated for the 2013-2014 Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award, and was selected by the Tiverton, R.I., School Committee for its school system’s One Book/One School Summer Reading Program.
Houdini focuses on John Smith, a 13-year-old boy who grows up in a rough neighborhood in Providence. Inspired by an author who visited his school, John decides to write his first novel. He views his world as flawed and slowly lays out a plan on how he, and hopefully his friends, can make the great escape — just like his hero, Houdini.
Johnson, who has taught at PC since 1985, earned his doctorate in creative writing at the University of New Hampshire. He teaches Introduction to Literature, Creative Writing Fiction, a seminar on the prose poem, and a seminar on black humor in contemporary poetry courses at PC.
Johnson said that the novel has connected with readers and critics alike because it is comic in tone but also has depth.
“Most people root for a character like Houdini,” said Johnson. “Also, I think critics have liked the novel-within-a-novel concept, and what kid doesn't want to write his own novel”?
— John Larson
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