Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower

Pizzoli, Greg (Author/Illustrator)
Penguin Random House 2015. 40 pages
First published: 2015
ISBN: 9780670016525 (hardcover)
Original language: English
Dewey: 364.16
Book type: Non-Fiction
Book genre: Biography

Text Elements:

character, characterization, point of view, setting, structures and features

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

This extraordinarily creative biographical picture book hooks its readers immediately: “In 1890, the man who would one day be known by 45 different aliases was born.” The notorious con man, Robert Miller, quits school and starts gambling. He creates an alias (among many), “Count Victor Lustig,” to fit in with wealthy aristocrats. He employs the “Romanian Money Box trick” to con his marks. But his biggest heist of all is to “sell” the Eiffel Tower.

The easygoing tone is a perfect mix of facts and storytelling. With highly readable text and clever design elements, fascination is found in the quirky details. We are captivated by how amazingly impossible it all is. Phenomenal artwork has a retro, collage feel with a mix of rubber stamps, pencil, ink, silkscreen, and halftone photographs. Grey and green tones dominate the palette, reminiscent of American dollar bills. Occasional speech bubbles add a humorous tone: “He robbed my room!” “He broke my heart!” “He drank my gin!” Vic himself is depicted as a faceless thumbprint head.

Factual sidebars occasionally complement the text, highlighting some of the more colourful topics: “Prohibition,” “Counterfeiting” and Tricky Vic’s final destination, Alcatraz. Back matter includes the author’s notes, a glossary and an enticing bibliography.

  •  

    Discuss and define the term con artist. Refer to the glossary if necessary. What are some ways that con artists operate in the present day?

  •  

    Use a timeline to summarize the life and career of Tricky Vic.

  •  

    Read the author’s note. Discuss the challenges the author faced in accurately retelling the events. Does this affect the credibility of the story, in your opinion?

  •  Make a list of tips to avoid being the mark in a con. Think of advice that was relevant when the story is set and remains helpful in the present day.
  •  

    Why might the illustrator have chosen to portray Tricky Vic without any facial traits? Draw a character map for Tricky Vic. Include his different names, qualities (good and bad), physical description and different looks. Compare your map with that of a few partners and amend where appropriate.

  •  

    With a partner, use a timeline to summarize the life and career of Tricky Vic.

  •  

    As a group, discuss current ways people trick others. Make a list of tips to avoid being the mark in a con. Think of advice that was relevant when the story was set and remains helpful in the present day.

  •  Before reading, put the story in context: look at the endpaper illustrations, read the inside panel and consider the title. Predict what the story will be about based on these elements.
  •  After reading two-thirds of the book, stop to write two descriptive autobiographical paragraphs for the main character: one as Robert Miller, apprentice salesman; the other as Victor Lustig, successful con man.
  •  Identify parts of the story that would be interesting in a movie and explain why. Choose a favourite scene and write the corresponding script.
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • To use creativity
  • To use information
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Media Literacy
  • Career Development
  • Geography, History and Citizenship
  • Personal Development