Skip to main content

Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of The Man Who Sold The Eiffel Tower by Greg Pizzoli

You may know Greg Pizzoli from his fantastic picture books, but his highly readable, crazy fun first non-fiction picture book, Tricky Vic: The  Impossibly True Story of The Man Who Sold The Eiffel Tower will knock your socks off. The story of Robert Miller and the brilliant way in which Pizzoli tells his story with words and pictures is superb. Apologies now for the frequent use of exclamation points...

In 1890 in what is now the Czech Republic, Robert Miller was born the year after the Eiffel Tower opened (on March 31st!) Miller moved to Paris for university but dropped out when he discovered he was a gifted gambler. He renamed himself Count Victor Lustig and spent time conning wealthy passengers on ocean liners before WWI put and end to his industry. Several arrests in Europe led Miller to the United States where he conned Al Capone himself and earned the right to work his way around the country with the Romanian Money Box scam, which is hilarious now, but understandably believable back then. With the police on his trail, Miller returned to Europe and planned his biggest scam ever. 

It seems beyond belief today that anyone could be tricked into buying the Eiffel Tower, but Pizzoli, in his text and in sidebars, sheds light on the history of the tower itself. Criticized as ugly when it debuted at the Exposition Universelle, the Eiffel Tower  was supposed to be removed after twenty years, making Miller's con, especially the way he played it out, very plausible. Miller's scam was a success, so much so that he returned to Paris to try it a second time! How Miller is finally brought to justice and where he ends up (Alcatraz!) is almost as good a story - so good that you just might finish reading Tricky Vic: The  Impossibly True Story of The Man Who Sold The Eiffel Tower and wonder if you have been conned by Greg Pizzoli. However, a thoughtful author, Pizzoli includes a glossary of terms, a selected sources page and a very illuminating Author's Note where he discusses researching and writing the book and the narrative choices he made, letting readers know that he is "clarifying it here because I wouldn't want you to feel as though you've conned." Pizzoli ends his note sharing a con that he and his wife witnessed as they picnicked in a park in Paris, telling readers to, "Stay sharp."

Pizzoli's mixed-media illustrations, the face of Miller (who was known by 45 different aliases) always appearing as a thumbprint, are filled with detail, occasionally cartoonish and playfully humorous. They keep the story flowing so that reluctant readers will not even realize they are reading. Tricky Vic: The  Impossibly True Story of The Man Who Sold The Eiffel Tower is such a great read I hope that Greg Pizzoli has more non-fiction in his future!

More books by Greg Pizzoli:
Just Itzy, written by Lana Krumwiede 
(review coming very soon!)

Source: Review Copy


Popular posts from this blog

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!


How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers

How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers remains the most read post on my blog since I wrote it in 2012. Because of this, I have cleaned up this post, tightened the writing and added in any pertinent information that has come about since it originally ran. When I first started in August of 2008, I was scrambling for content, finding my purpose and my voice and not always doing my best writing. How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers was one of the first articles I wrote and, as a bookseller and a book reviewer, and now as an elementary school librarian where I have gone from working with kids reading well beyond their grade level to kids reading well below, this philosophy remains my organizing principle and central focus when reading and recommending books to parents and children. 

In the interest of my mission and the attention this article continues to receive, I have updated and expanded this article and included a guide to using …

POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…