Amazing Magic Tricks
Available from www.amazon.co.uk
Every now and again a new book appears aimed at young budding magicians and is sold through book chains to the general public. These books are often an important starting point for youngsters aged 6-10 as the right book can inspire a lifetime of interest in magic. Amazing Magic Tricks, which is being published this November, is the latest in the line.
There are two main things, in my view, that a book aimed at young start up magicians needs. The first is the magic content has to be reasonably within the skill set of the readers, with hopefully a mix of very easy effects plus a few more challenging ones to encourage practice and development. The props required should also be things that are readily available, or simple to make up.
The second, and equally vital element, is that the way the book is designed and the language that is used in the text, needs to be carefully selected so that the target readers are excited and attracted to the contents, and also so that they can understand and follow the instructions that are being given.
Amazing Magic Tricks unfortunately fails to a greater or lesser extent with both these elements. The tone and approach of the text in the book is clearly aimed at young people, but the language is too advanced for most children of that age, and I question whether they would be able or would want to struggle to understand it.
Also, the book is randomly printed on all sorts of different coloured paper stock, which with some of the colours makes the text a bit hard to read. I think this is in an attempt to make the book look a bit more colourful, because all the illustrations are black and white pencil drawings which give no colour or vibrancy to the pages at all. I’m afraid to say the whole book looks old fashioned and deadly dull, and if I was a kid picking this up for a flick through in a book shop, I would very quickly put it down again because there’s nothing to catch the imagination or the eye in it.
This book would possibly have been fine if it had been published in the 1950s, but today’s youngsters are used to brightly coloured, visual content, and this book provides nothing of this type at all. When you compare it to the Dominic Wood trilogy of books from a few years ago aimed at the same age group, or Nick Einhorn’s lay people books, Amazing Magic Tricks regrettably is not even in the same postcode.
But what about the content? Well, the selection of magic is a combination of well known effects that seem to appear in all magic publications aimed at the general public, plus some other slightly debateable additional choices. For instance, the book teaches one card force which is a clunky behind-the-back handling which is totally unnatural and requires the performer to turn his back on the spectators to do it. When there are so many suitable card forces out there, I can’t understand why this one was chosen.
That being said, most of the effects revealed do use props you can get hold of easily, and methods that range from self working through to mildly challenging. However, the way that the methods are described leaves a lot to be desired. There were several that I had to read two or three times myself to understand what the instructions were supposed to be. This could have been helped by plenty of clear colour photographs to supplement the explanation, but instead you get a small number of not very helpful pencil drawings. Nicely drawn but not much help to a 10 year old grappling with incomprehensible instructions.
As well as the tricks there are various advice and general facts about magic and magicians thrown in. Again, even these are often crammed into small boxes with tiny dense text, so very unattractive.
I don’t know whether the author Chris Stone is a magician (apparently he has commissioned and edited books on a huge array of subjects from U-Boats to David Beckham, and as an author he specialises in humour, pop culture and sport), but it doesn’t look like it. There are no credits to any magical names in the book either, so it would appear that the publishers didn’t get an experienced magic writer or performer in to oversee the content. As a result this ends up as a book that fails to deliver the right content in the correct way to its target audience, and therefore I can’t imagine it will be flying off the shelves.
Review by Mark Leveridge. Originally published in Magicseen Magazine, issue 89