Book Review of “Alex the Great” by Daniel Holzman

As members of the IJA we know Daniel Holzman as one-half of the highly successful juggling team The Raspyni Brothers. We know him as producing great Cascade of Stars shows and an entire week long IJA festival. We know him as the host of the highly informative podcast “Drop Everything.” 

In all juggling arenas Daniel exhibits a high level of professionalism and acumen.

Now he can add another feather to his cap as a novelist.

Daniel has written two other books, both nonfiction. This is his first foray into fiction but the subject matter is based on his real life experience as a street performer. 

The cover of this young adult novel features a hand holding a hat filled with money which certainly conveys the main storyline of the book – learning to create an act worthy of passing the hat. The story is set in the world of  busking at San Francisco’s Pier 39.  The book is over 200 pages in length and the chapters are short – some just one page. 

Like any good juggling/variety act “Alex the Great” is divided into three parts:

The Apprenticeship, The Audition, and The Show.

In the beginning we are introduced to Alex, the skinny eighteen-year-old whose life is going to change because he meets Bill King, a modern-day vaudevillian. There are other street performers in the story who prove themselves to be characters both good and bad. Some whom we might venture guesses on who are their real life counterparts. But that is a game for old timers and this book is about helping a newcomer. This first part opens the door for Alex and us to enter the secret world of street performing and street performers. Much true and valuable advice is revealed in the mentoring of Alex from the end of his career Bill King. 

The middle is about Alex advancing quickly into a capable juggler and performer as he prepares for an audition to get a regular slot in the rotation on Pier 39. 

The ending of “Alex the Great” is like a perfect finish trick that reaches a crescendo and leaves the audience satisfied. The book also has some surprises and twists. 

I  greatly appreciated the heart of the story holding up the idea of being an ethical and honest performer who isn’t afraid to help newbies. Two of the main lessons taught are not to burn bridges and your light doesn’t dim when you ignite someone else’s flame.

This is a fast, heartfelt, entertaining read that both jugglers and non-jugglers will enjoy. This is the perfect gift to give to a young adult or not so young adult that has shown interest in the art of juggling. “Alex the Great” is available on Amazon for $12.95.


Richard Kennison is a juggling coach and collector of juggling books.

 

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