Illusionology by Emily Hawkins

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Illusionology by Emily Hawkins

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Category: Children's Non-Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A gorgeous jumbo hardback, letting the young reader into the world of performing magic, through a partly ropey short story.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 30 Date: March 2012
Publisher: Templar
ISBN: 9781848772083

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If there was a prize for the most lavish book received here at Bookbag Towers for review, this would definitely be on the shortlist. A lovely large format hardback, the cover is a delight itself - with a 3D lenticular image, embossed bits, a plastic gem stuck in it... And inside there are packets of goodies to open and explore, making this more of a literary toy than a book. The book aims to introduce the cleverer child to the wonders of stagecraft and magic, and so here are props for some tricks for you to do, some instructions for other illusions of your own, and a historical guide to how the masters of their trade did it.

The whole rests on being the final outpourings of a magician who gets involved in a new-fangled scientific experiment in transportation, seeing it as a great piece with which to headline his act. His diary entries are received by lifting flaps behind each chapter introduction, and build to - well, if you've seen the movie The Prestige you know what happens, for a lot mirrors that - even the man with the original instant rose bush trick is here.

There's a slight problem in this in that some modern-styled non-fiction writing, with some quite complex vocabulary, goes great guns to present this as having been written a hundred years ago, and it doesn't quite work. What's more, the fact that the magicians we're introduced to are all classics of that era, and those tricks are the ones we're invited to emulate, rather hides the fact not much in this book is completely modern. So even here there're smoke and mirrors.

But what we're presented with on the whole is fine. I, like many, used to have a do-your-own-tricks book, probably a much stuffier Puffin or something if I recall correctly. It too had the dice-a-banana-without-peeling-it stunt, and I recognised several other items here, from card tricks to palming cards, coins and sponge balls. However, I had the privilege of working with a ten-year old magician last year, and he was using versions of what's herein. Plus there are definitely new tricks on me, to add to my feeble routine.

So while it looks feeble when one notes thirty pages as the content, that's not altogether true. Allow several minutes for each of the pages, presented as chunky stand-alone boxes of information. Add in the intrigue of unpeeling every flap, unfolding every secret panel, unravelling every strand of information, and you have a full-time couple of hours. Then, if you have been caught with the spell-casting bug, there's a lifetime of rehearsal and experience to undergo. So this admirably presented book could be a very worthwhile investment.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

File next to one of the books the creators used as reference - Hocus Pocus by Paul Kieve.

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