We rediscovered the power and wonder of Magic when our family recently attended a professional magic show. We experienced sleight of hand, levitation, even sawing a woman in half! It was more incredible than we remembered, and the young twins were mesmerized. On our bookshelf, we also are enjoying the read-alouds of magic and wizardry in the Harry Potter series, not to mention Demigods and Magicians, as you’ll recall from our recent post.
So, without further ado, we present to you for your wonder and enjoyment a flight on the delights of magic in all its various forms, for the whole family. Enjoy!
Family Read Aloud:
Escape!: The Story of the Great Houdini by Sid Fleischman
Sid Fleischman is the perfect mentor to introduce you and your family to the amazing story of Harry Houdini. As a fellow magician, he savors Houdini’s life and the world of magic. But don’t expect to learn all the secrets of the trade; Fleischman states upfront that an unspoken covenant among magicians prevents him from revealing Houdini’s secrets. This doesn’t turn out to be a limitation, as the story is told with Fleischman’s signature narrative skills, fascinating facts, not to mention vocabulary words that will intrigue and delight (prestidigitator, bunkum). Though written for tweens and early adolescents, this is a perfect family read-aloud to get everyone excited about Houdini-and the world of magic!
Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
If perhaps you’ve been living in a cave (and not the one where Sirius hid from the Ministry of Magic in The Goblet of Fire) and you haven’t heard of Harry Potter, it’s only the biggest selling book in forever, and has been single-handedly responsible for getting millions of kids interested in reading. That alone is reason to love and respect these books. Add in the fact that Rowling’s boy wizard is a very real and complex (and likable) boy who defeats evil incarnate with more confidence than he can face his first crush, and that the books are staggeringly well-written, and these modern classics have earned their place of honor on every home and classrooms shelf. (Needless to say, these books really need to be read in order, so begin with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.)
Milo’s Hat Trick by Jon Agee
John Agee is one of my favorite authors for the little ones. And Milo’s Hat Trick is one of his best. Poor Milo is a failure as a magician. He can’t pull a rabbit out of a hat–in fact, he can’t even find a rabbit. But he meets a bear who can appear and disappear with astonishing success, all because he believes he can! Milo’s new bear companion is perfectly happy to help him for many performances, but finally needs his sleep. Milo must accomplish his magic tricks on his own–and he does! Witty, humorous text and marvelous large and expressive cartoon-like artwork. Another winner for pre-school children.
The Magic Rabbit by Annette LeBlanc Cate
Another rabbit in the hat magician picture book, but with a difference. This story of friendship focuses on Ray the magician and his rabbit companion and assistant who perform by day and share an apartment by night, true best friends. A mis-hap with another street performer causes the two to become separated and the search to be reunited is the true heart of the story. The illustrations make this a favorite with kids and adults alike: black and white with occasional gold stars. A happy ending and the magic of friendship prevails in this sweet and captivating tale.
Anything But Ordinary Addie: The True Story of Adelaide Herrmann, Queen of Magic by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Iacopo Bruno
Magicians are not just male, as this true story shows. Adele Scarsez was an amazing girl who scandalized her friends and family with her dancing, performing, and bicycle riding. But that was only the beginning! She met–and proposed to the magician Hermann the Great, and they became a team. At first, she was his assistant, but when he died, she took over his act and became a famous magician in her own right. Addie decided to learn the bullet-catching trick, a bit of magic so dangerous that magicians had been killed performing it. However, Addie succeeded, and her magic show continued for many years. The story is fascinating, and the illustrations and overall design of the book, with text in a variety of fonts woven in among the pictures, makes this a visual feast.
Dorko the Magnificent by Andrea Beaty
Fifth-grader Dorko is an aspiring magician, who seems to have a talent–for having his tricks go awry. Luckily, his Grandma Melvyn was once a famous magician, and although she is eccentric and quite cantankerous, she agrees to help him out. He slowly earns Grandma’s approval and, ultimately, her trust and affection. She not only coaches Robbie in showmanship and sleight of hand, but she also guides him down the path to self-confidence and self-discipline. It’s told from Robbie Darko’s (aka Dorko) point of view, and in a very realistic tween voice. Lots of humor, and some touching moments as well.
Mark Wilson’s Complete Course in Magic by Mark Wilson
And if we are reading about the amazing world of Magic, what about learning to perform it? Author Mark Wilson’s claim to fame is that he is “probably the nation’s leading authority on magic” (according to the New York Times). It seems he actually has another reason for his fame: his numerous books, courses, kits, and workshops teaching young magicians the tools of the trade. One reviewer, a professional magician, simply gushes about this Complete Course in Magic book: “I can say, unequivocally, that this book is easy-to-understand, eminently practical, and immediately enjoyable; the learning factor –even for someone quite skilled– is off the charts! Drawings everywhere! Little tips of patter and misdirection accompany all the sleights, and even self-working tricks are turned into miracles.” Good for teens as well as tweens. I’m hooked–and eager to start practicing!
The Golden Compass Series ( His Dark Materials) by Phillip Pullman
This series belongs alongside Harry Potter and The Hunger Games books as modern classics. They appeal to all readers, though written for teens. Exploring themes of religion, friendship, politics, family, the notion of magic and of other worlds, it touches on every major theme that resonates with young teens– or really, with all of us. The first book begins in another world, similar to, yet wholly unlike, our own. The orphan (or is she?) Lyra Belaqua, and her animal familiar (daemon, they call them) Pantalaimon are our guides into this world. The second book continues in our own world with another abandoned youngster, Will. Their worlds and many others will collide before the adventure is finished. These phenomenal books hold up to (in fact, they practically demand) several readings.
Spellcaster by Claudia Gray
This YA novel for older adolescents tales place in a small New England town, where magic has deep roots. Nadia learns this quickly when she moves there because, well, she’s a witch. But she senses a presence of evil magic at work and soon bands together with new friends Mateo, a tortured boy whose family is cursed with telling the future, and Verlaine, a girl with a mysterious past, to figure out how to stop the magic from destroying their home. As readers, we are treated to an intriguing blend of the history of witches and witchcraft and a romance of the paranormal kind. The characters are appealing, and the story is full of twists and turns that leave readers looking forward to the next installment.
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Blue is part of a family of psychics–but without having the power herself. As the book unfolds, we learn that what Blue does have is the ability to magnify the powers of others. She lives in a town with a prestigious and expensive boys’ prep school– Aglionbe Academy–and it is here she meets “the Raven Boys” (as the town’s residents calls the boys. Her romantic life is complicated by the fact that every psychic she’s ever met predicts that if Blue were to kiss her true love, he would die. As she gets to know some of the boys, she becomes drawn into their quest to find a kind of magical “ley line.” A unique supernatural thriller, and the first of a series.
The Magicians: A Novel by Lev Grossman
When you were a kid, did you love escaping into another world–like Narnia, or Earthsea? If your answer is yes, this grown-up ( adult themed) version may be for you. In tones of Harry Potter, Quentin is admitted to a secret University for an education in magic: Brakebills Academy. There he meets a cohort of young adults who are in college together in a sort of post Hogwarts school, with darker shades of magic. As children, they had all enjoyed the magical land of Fillory–turns out it’s real and quite a dangerous place when they enter it to make things right. Though the novel is entertaining on some levels, it’s also a deeply serious book, with complex characters, some fatally flawed. This book definitely has the feel of a classic in the making. And good news: 2 more books in the series!