Joshua Jay’s Big Magic for Little Hands

BookendsBig MagicCindy: Magic books are popular in one of my middle schools because we have a magician on staff! Mr. Huber runs a magic club during his lunch break and his enthusiasm is contagious. When I saw Joshua Jay’s new book Big Magic for Little Hands (Workman, 2015) I was eager to get my librarian hands on it for my students. This oversized book has 25 magic effects for students to learn (Jay advises young magicians to never use the crass term “magic trick,” but instead to use “magic effects). I’m too uncoordinated to give the book’s effects a fair test, so I loaned the book to the magic club. The only problem with that was prying it out of their hands so we could blog about it!

What stands out the most is the sense of a master teacher
passing on the “tricks of a trade” that he so clearly loves.

Mr. Huber reported back that the book’s large pages make the step by step directions easier to see than those in many other beginner books. He also liked the variety of effects selected for the book. Often you find a book of all rope effects, or card tricks, or illusions, but Jay provides a nice variety of effects that fall into the category of illusions. Our sixth-grade budding magicians like the book and are anxious for me to give it back.

IMG_1165The librarian in me liked the sidebar explanations of the science behind many of the effects and the history of the art. We all know about a magician’s skill at misdirection, but there is more to learn about pulling off a successful magic effect. Most of the gaffs and props use readily available materials and look easy to construct. Tips for successful stage presence are included along the way, too. The spacious pages have a retro look and a palette of red and black and white. There’s also a list of credits for the effects in the book, references that may have young magicians scrambling to find out more about the famous magicians that first created or performed many of the effects. This book is BIG FUN.

Lynn: I learned so much from reading this book and I didn’t even TRY to do any of the effects. This book would make Houdini proud; what stands out the most is the sense of a master teacher passing on the “tricks of a trade” that he so clearly loves. Jay is first and foremost a great teacher. Each effect is clearly described with kid-appropriate language that teaches the terms and correct vocabulary. And what teacher wouldn’t love the introduction, where Jay says,

“As you’re about to learn, the secret of many illusions is often just science or math in disguise.”

Magic 1I also LOVE the Parent Introduction page where Jay reassures parents about magic as a hobby and lists some important skills and life lessons—such as confidence, public speaking, problem solving, and a love of reading—that are a result of this hobby. Don’t miss the How To Read This Book section, which has a glossary along with some basic information to get kids started, including the tip that duct tape is invaluable and the “closest thing to real magic.”

I’m no magician but I can assure you of one thing—this book’s biggest effect is going to be vanishing from your shelves in the hands of budding magicians!


Visit the Nonfiction Monday blog for more youth nonfiction recommendations each week from a variety of bloggers.




About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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