March 29 – Smoke and Mirrors Day

The King and the Magician by Jorge Bucay and Gusti Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

Abracadabra! With a puff of smoke and a few mirrors, I have made this blog post appear out of thin air! Okay, so maybe that’s not quite true, but today is the perfect day to try a little magic. On Smoke and Mirrors Day we celebrate the practitioners of this most mysterious art, who often extend and retract mirrors within a cloud of smoke to accomplish their deceptions. The term is also used generally whenever someone is trying to pull the wool over another person’s eyes. Whether you like sleight of hand, disappearing acts, or the magic of a soothing cup of tea, have fun, make a little mischief, and enjoy the day!

The King and the Magician

Written by Jorge Bucay | Illustrated by Gusti


In a faraway land there once lived a King who was very powerful. Not only does he love power, he commands that everyone in his kingdom obey and admire him. Trembling, his subjects reassure him every day that he is the most powerful man in the kingdom.

One day, however, the King hears a rumor that down in the village lives a Magician who can predict the future. The King fears that this man will become more powerful than he, and he sends his spies to learn more. The spies return and reveal that not only can the Magician tell the future, he is loved and admired by everyone.

The King becomes terribly jealous and plots to do away with his most hated enemy. He devises a plot to trick the Magician. He will host a party, and at the end will ask the Magician if he can truly predict the future. If the Magician says “No,” he will be exposed as a fraud, and the king will kill him. If the Magician answers “Yes,” the King will ask him to predict the date of the Magician’s death and will then kill him. The King is pleased with his scheme because either way, he will be rid of his rival.

On the night of the party, the King summons the Magician and asks him the fatal question. The Magician is more than just a seer or a sorcerer—he is wise. He looks at the King and states, “the Magician of this kingdom will die the exact same day as his King.

Now the King is in a terrible quandary. He does not want to risk the possibility that this old man’s prediction is true. He must now protect the Magician in order to save his own life. He quickly concocts a ruse and asks the Magician to stay the night in the castle, saying he wants to consult with him about some royal matters. In fact, he just wants to keep an eye on him.

The Magician agrees. The next morning the King goes to the Magician and asks his advice on some kingly decisions. The Magician offers good suggestions, and the king accepts them. As the months go by, the King continues to rely on the Magician for guidance, and slowly the King learns to be fair and wise. He becomes the respected and admired ruler he always wanted to be.

The King realizes that not only is the Magician a trusted advisor, he is a loyal and beloved friend. One day, wracked with guilt over his one-time plot to kill the Magician, the King reveals the story. The Magician listens to the King’s secret, and shares one of his own.

He relates that when the king questioned him on the night of the party, he saw the king reach for the hilt of his sword and realized his intentions. He then divulges that he made up the prediction of their shared death date to teach the King a lesson—one the King has learned. He says, “It is our lives that have become entwined, not our deaths.”

For many more years the King and the Magician live as friends and confidants. The kingdom grows stronger and the King kinder and more loved by his people. One day the Magician dies. The King is sad, and realizes he is no longer afraid of his own death. The King has learned the Magician’s lesson well, and even though his advisor is gone, he continues to make wise and beneficial decisions.

Ten years later the King writes a letter to his son and heir. In his letter, the King cautions his son that during his life he may come across someone or something that “will arouse fear and jealousy in your soul” and will want to destroy them or it to alleviate his fear. Instead, says his father, “open  your heart or your home” because “what you thought was your most feared enemy, is really your most powerful friend.”

Jorge Bucay has written a classic tale of wisdom verses power wrapped around a clever psychological trick that initiates the kind of thought which leads to true enlightenment. The straightforward storytelling and the pacing of the plot build suspense, while lyrical descriptions create a beautiful flow that depicts both the quandary of the King and the kindness of the Magician.

Gusti’s lavish illustrations, reminiscent of hieroglyphics and Medieval tapestries, are rendered in dark, rich brown, rust, black, olive and blue hues that gorgeously portray the splendor of the King and his castle, but also signal the somber weight in his soul. The regal tone even extends to the gilded text. The King is drawn as an imposing rounded figure, towering over everyone else in his kingdom, but his feet and hands are tiny, lending him a bit of a comical yet vulnerable air. The King’s eyes narrow with cunning as he plots his evil deed but widen in doubt and despair as the Magician works his special brand of magic.

Ages 4 – 8

Abbeville Kids, 2014 | ISBN 978-0789212047

Smoke and Mirrors Day Activity

CPB - Magic Word Scramble II


Say the Magic Word! Word Scramble


Magic is all about mystery—and so is this scrambled word puzzle! Print the Say the Magic Word! word scramble. Then unscramble each magic-related word and, using the letters in the circles, discover the mystery phrase. Here’s the Solution!

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