Stories of great magicians for young readers

A place where beginners can participate, ask questions, and post their views. However, beginners typically ask a lot of questions about sources, tricks, books, and so on. In fact, all magicians are interested (or should be) in the provenance of tricks, ideas, and related matters. This department will service these needs.

Postby Guest » 10/05/05 06:58 AM

Greetings from the south....

SInce I have an aspiring wizard in the house who is also an avid reader, I was wondering if some list members might have some suggestions for some inspiring reading ? I am looking for biographies, autobiographies, and such of some of the great magicians that might be readable by someone who is not an adult. Any help with titles is most appreciated....

Mark Pettey
Naples,FL
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Postby Richard Hatch » 10/05/05 07:19 AM

How old is he or she? Or perhaps it would be better to ask the reading level?

There are several good biographies of Houdini available targetting younger readers. Two of my favorite magicians' biographies, though not written for young readers, are actually autobiographies: the MEMOIRS OF ROBERT-HOUDIN (out of print currently, but not hard to find in the Dover paperback edition) and ILLUSION SHOW by David Bamberg. Both are filled with well told adventures.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/05/05 08:14 AM

Originally posted by TRUMPETMAN:
Greetings from the south....

Since I have an aspiring wizard in the house who is also an avid reader, I was wondering if some list members might have some suggestions for some inspiring reading ? ...
What would you like them to come away from their reading with?

The grubby tales of self aggrandizing neurotic people with a hole in their souls that can be filled only by the command of awe in others is not such a nice thing. Add to that the usual tales of how people took routines from each other without permission, sent in spies to steal learn and copy the mechanics of tricks and worse... well perhaps not the right message for a child. Tales of Mr. Robert-Houdin brining 19th century technology to show stronger magic than the local Arab leaders ... interesting subject if you approve of colonialism. How about the use of conjuring ideas in warfare via camouflage and mock tanks. Saved many lives and also some large shipyards.

Would you like them to learn about what magic can be for people? The Harry Potter stories offer much in that department. Likewise if the youngster is read for a head-on view of the issues that come up when magic is used, try Neil Gaiman's story The Books of Magic BUT be prepared for lots of questions which take some research. Yes there are annotations available though they also expect the reader to have access to the primary sources like Campbell and Bullfinches Mythology.

Recently the notion of ideas and how they affect us as human beings was explored in Promethea. Perhaps not entirely safe for children as it does touch upon sexuality.

I guess the book A Wrinkle in Time and Carroll's "Alice" stories might be old hat by now. :D
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Postby Frank Yuen » 10/05/05 01:57 PM

Two books that I remember from my youth are The Illustrated History of Magic by Milbourne Christopher and The Master Magicians by Walter B. Gibson. My local library had both of these books and I read them numerous times. I think you will find that these fit the bill nicely.

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Postby Guest » 10/06/05 07:09 AM

Wow ! Very intersting suggestions, guys ! Everything from graphic novels ( AKA "comic book" novels, for those not "in the know") to some of the genre's classics.

I guess I should have clarified that my son is in elementary school, but reading two grade levels ahead of his class. In other words, he devours most anything about magic I give him to read.

I just got back from a trip to the public library, where I investigated both the children's and adult's sections. I think it must be a requirement for graduation that all journalism and english majors write a book on Houdini (there were more than a "few" , LOL !).

What was disappointing was that more magicians have not been explored in this manner by authors. Surely there are enough stories out there in the ranks about the greats like Thurston, Kellar, Blackstone, and others that could be kept "clean" for younger readers.

Most magicians I have met started experimenting with magic at a fairly early age, proving that magicians do not just suddenly appear at age 21 ! Think how incredibly inspirational it would be for young conjurors to be able to read stories about the lives and adventures of the greats, both past and present (Lance Burton, Jeff McBride, David Copperfield, are you listening ?).

Yes, some would argur that the market for these type books would be small, but judging from the number of cheesy "You too can do Magic !!!" books cluttering the shelves at libraries and book stores, I think I could safely argue that the market is definitely there.

I am not talking about more "secrets of how the great magicians did their illusions" books, but instead stories of their youth, early performing experiences, and their rise to fame.

Always trying to help my young wizard,

Mark Pettey
Naples, FL
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/06/05 07:35 AM

Originally posted by TRUMPETMAN:
...that could be kept "clean" for younger readers...
Such is where we go from the true to the ideal.

A flower does not spontaneously appear from some external desire that there be beauty. It starts like any other plant, usually as a seed. It then grows roots and from the surrounding environment takes in nutrients, water and sunlight. From both what was there, and what was available, and the pressures both environmental and internal-self expression, comes SOMETHING. To excise the truths that motivate the work is to create a work of dark fiction.

In inquiry into why did Houdini choose to escape from handcuffs and stuff as opposed to doing a completely different expression is where we can learn about and appreciate the magic. Why did he not perform impossibly fast house painting or use the metamorphosis effect to change immigrants into citizens? Why vanish an elephant when an earth mover would work as well? What did it mean to those who watched when he escaped from challenge restraints? Likewise why don't we have escape artists today? How come nobody is getting out of padded rooms in hospitals after being medicated and wrapped in a mattress? Why don't the larger rock and roll shows with large choruses also perform those old amazing stage illusions?

I suggest that by offering some context and perhaps a little less varnish, one can offer a greater inspiration. The fact of those dead canaries and the bitter rivalries speak directly to the intensity of the drives of those involved. Art devoid of passion suffers a great risk of becoming trivial decoration. Come to think of it, isn't that what we are looking at with bland lounge acts? And perhaps why we are excited to see what Criss Angel is up to?
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Postby Guest » 10/06/05 11:02 AM

Jonathan,

While I really appreciate your insight and "take" on my search for appropriate reading material for my son, I think I can safely assume that you do not have kids, at least not young ones. If you did , I think you could understand my side of things a little better.

However, I really have enjoyed researching the references you have given me, and will more than likely have my son investigate them, as he gets a bit older.

Please don't take anything I just said as a harsh critique or cyberflaming. I REALLY did enjoy your comments...

:)

Mark Pettey
Naples, FL
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/06/05 11:25 AM

Originally posted by TRUMPETMAN:
...I really have enjoyed researching the references you have given me, and will more than likely have my son investigate them, as he gets a bit older....
Thank you. That is the most one could suggest to another adult, that they investigate material and offer what they feel appropriate, as they feel appropriate.

The place of the magician has changed in our society since Merlin educated Arthur. I don't know if the historical footnotes of how magicians have served their countries and advanced their culture have been collected or easily accessible. From Mles and movies to a recent spymaster discussed in a Genii article, quite a collection of footnotes. Probably best if you offer the source material and associated Items like publicity posters.

Perhaps some information about Jerry Andrus and also Doug Henning would work? Doug's The Magic Show / Spellbound was well documented, and Jerry Andrus is still with us and has his museum. Just a thought.
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Postby Richard Hatch » 10/06/05 09:25 PM

Mark, I wonder if he might enjoy MAGICIANS' MAGIC by Paul Curry, a wonderful book with some good anecdotes about historical figures (Herrmann, Kellar, Cardini) and some great tricks. It has recently been reprinted by Dover in paperback for about $10 and should be widely available. Henry Hay's CYCLOPEDIA OF MAGIC has lots of one paragraph biographies of magicians. I don't think it is a good book to learn from (it is structured alphabetically, not pedagogically), but I spent hours jumping around in it as a kid. Also available in a Dover reprint. A GREAT introductory text is Allan Zola Kronzek's SECRETS OF ALKAZAR, also from Dover. Their PANORAMA OF MAGIC by Milbourne Christopher (I think they recently renamed it MAGIC: A PICTURE HISTORY) has lots of great photos, posters and anecdotes. All of these should be available in most bookstores, many libraries, amazon.com and (new and used) from our shop, www.magicbookshop.com
As more come to mind, I'll post them here...
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Postby Guest » 10/07/05 01:37 AM

Not precisely to your specifications, but I'd lke to add Sid Fleischman's The Abracadabra Kid to the fine list of books already mentioned. Check it out on Amazon for more info...
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Postby NCMarsh » 10/07/05 06:25 AM

Christopher's Illustrated History, mentioned by many others, was also huge for me growing up -- as was John Fischer's Paul Daniels and the Story of Magic, The Blackstone Book of Magic and Illusion (mainly a history), and Jay's Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women. The concluding chapter of Karl Fulves' Big Book of Magic Tricks also fascinated me -- particularly with its account of Hummer's card through window.

The companion book to PBS' "The Art of Magic" might be a great choice -- richly illustrated and fun to read. As I would imagine, though I have not read it, that 51 Magicians and A Fakir would be.

Best,

N.
OrlandoCorporateMagician.com Orlando Magician
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