October 31 – National Magic Day

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About the Holiday

Today, of course, is Halloween but October 31 is also National Magic Day! This holiday got it’s start in 1938 when a Chicago member of the Society of American Magicians sought official permission to honor the great Harry Houdini with a special day of recognition for his contributions to the world of magic. Houdini’s wife sanctioned the holiday and proclaimed October 31 – the date of his death in 1926 – as National Magic Day. No matter how you celebrate Halloween or National Magic Day today, the shivery thrills of surprise and imagination are always a joy.

Thanks to Tundra Books for sending me a copy of The Magician’s Secret for review consideration. All opinions are my own. 

The Magician’s Secret

Written by Zachary Hyman | Illustrated by Joe Bluhm

 

When Mom and Dad dropped Charlie off at his grandfather’s for an overnight visit, they pleaded with him to make sure his grandson went to bed early. “‘No more hocus-pocus!’” his daughter said. That wasn’t just some phrase she conjured up, because her father had once been a magician and was still “like a big kid who never grew up.” He loved to play games with Charlie and “also knew the most amazing tricks.” But he never told Charlie his secrets.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-attic

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

What Charlie loved best were Grandpa’s stories. Whenever Grandpa told a story, he and Charlie went up to the “most cobwebby corner of the attic” where a big green trunk full of special things from Grandpa’s adventures sat. Grandpa would pull out an item and begin to talk. This night he showed Charlie an hourglass filled with sand that Grandpa said came from the tomb of King Tut.

Another time, he pulled out a scarf that had belonged to the World War I Red Baron fighter pilot. Grandpa had plucked it from the Red Baron’s neck during a dogfight in which Grandpa left the Baron and his plane floating in a French sea. One summer evening the story revolved around a coconut shell that he found on a tropical beach. He had fallen asleep under a palm tree only to be awakened by a roaring T-Rex intent on eating him. Just in the nick of time, “dozens of rocks rained down through the air, scaring the nasty dinosaur away.” Who had saved him? Grandpa never told, saying that was for Charlie to figure out.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-red-baron

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

Charlie loved Grandpa’s stories, but his father said that they were just “things Grandpa’s made up.” Charlie couldn’t believe it. He felt like he “had lived every one of those adventures with Grandpa. How could they not be true?” When Charlie asked his grandfather about it, Grandpa sighed. He said the problem with grown-ups was that they didn’t “have faith in make-believe” but that if you “use your imagination, you can turn a dream into something real.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-twilight

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

Charlie wasn’t so sure, but Grandpa assured him: “‘We’ve done it over and over again, with cameras and computers, automobiles and airplanes…. Magic is all around us, kiddo—in me and in you.’” Then Grandpa waved his hands in the air and produced a…rock. He said it was the philosopher’s stone that could do magical things, but the secret was that “‘You have to see it, you have to believe it.’” That night Charlie fell into a deep sleep with the rock under his pillow. When he woke up, he heard an earth-shattering roar. He looked and saw a T-Rex threatening his grandpa. He looked at the rock in his hand and knew what to do….

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-in-bed

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

Zachary Hyman makes magic with traditional storytelling combined with the wonder of imagination and the encouragement to make dreams come true. As Grandpa talks about his daring feats, Charlie believes him, but more importantly, Charlie believes that he could do such marvelous things too. Hyman’s reminder that all great discoveries and achievements began as someone’s seemingly impossible idea is well aimed at his young audience whose boundless imaginations may just be our next realities. Hyman’s evocative language and conversational tone  will keep children enthralled until the surprise ending.

Joe Bluhm lends a mysterious enchantment to Hyman’s story with his atmospheric depictions of the cobwebby attic, darkened, creature-infested tomb, and twilit skies. Turning from the setup to the heart of Grandpa’s stories, readers are immersed in vibrant colors and dazzling light, representative of that flash of ingenuity or creativity in each of us. In a nice cyclical set of images, Charlie is first seen watching TV and playing aviator, spaceman, explorer, artists, and magician with Grandpa in sepia-toned snapshots. Near the end of the book when Grandpa talks about the power of imagination, these same scenes are presented in full color with Charlie as a pilot, astronaut, movie director, mountain climber, race car driver, and explorer.

Like the best magic trick, The Magician’s Secret will captivate readers but will also tell them what they really want to know: the answer to how they can do wondrous things themselves. The book would make a terrific addition to home, classroom, and school libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Tundra Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1770498945

To learn more about Joe Bluhm, his books, and his art, visit his website.

It’s no secret that you’ll love this The Magician’s Secret book trailer!

National Magic Day Activity

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It’s Magic! Maze

 

Help the spell flow to the top hat to make the magic work in this printable maze!

It’s Magic! Maze | It’s Magic! Maze Solution

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You can find The Magician’s Secret at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

April 3 – National Find a Rainbow Day

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About the Holiday

It’s not often someone wishes you a rainy day. Today, though, I’m doing just that because you can’t see a rainbow without a little of the wet stuff. This early spring month was chosen for this special day because, as we all know, April showers bring May flowers. Those same April showers lead to beautiful rainbows—even double rainbows sometimes! So, I hope you have a bad (weather) day and good luck finding a rainbow today! By the way—what do May flowers bring? Right! Pilgrims!

Rainbow Stew

By Cathryn Falwell

 

Grandpa’s making pancakes for his three favorite kids, and his granddaughter and two grandsons are excited to be visiting where they can play outside all day. Through the window the kids see that it’s a rainy day. Does this mean they’ll have to stay inside? Their grandpa knows just what to do! “Let’s go and find some colors for my famous Rainbow Stew!” he says.

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Image copyright Catherine Falwell, 2013, courtesy of rainbowstewbook.com

Out to the garden they run in their raincoats and hats. “Splish, splash, / puddle dash, / We bounce right out the door. / We’re off to find some red and green, / some yellow, orange, and more. / Grandpa shows us how to move / Between each garden row. / Lifting up the drippy leaves, /  we see what colors grow.” They collect green spinach, kale, and zucchini; yellow peppers, purple cabbage and eggplant, red radishes and tomatoes; brown potatoes; and orange carrots. After some muddy fun among the plants, the kids go inside, get dried off, and begin to prepare their colorful stew.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rainbow-stew-interior-art-in-the-garden

Image copyright Catherine Falwell, 2013, courtesy of rainbowstewbook.com

Peel, slice / chop and dice, / colors fill the pot. / Stir in herbs and water / and then wait till it gets hot.” While the pot simmers on the stove, Grandpa and the kids snuggle on the couch with favorite books, reading together until the stew has simmered to perfection. The family then sits down to a homemade, colorful, delicious lunch of Rainbow Stew. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rainbow-stew-interior-art-cooking-together

Image copyright Catherine Falwell, 2013, courtesy of rainbowstewbook.com

Cathryn Falwell’s Rainbow Stew is a wonderful book to share with young children on many levels. The bright colors of Grandpa’s house mirror the vividness of the garden vegetables in his stew, which could be made into a matching game for extra fun. The rhyming verses—each begun with an energetic couplet that would be fun for kids to repeat or act out—draw listeners into the story. Introducing colors through familiar and delicious vegetables can get kids excited about gardening, cooking, even going to the grocery store.

Children will identify with the disappointment of the three siblings when they learn it’s too wet to spend the day outside as well as their glee at squishing in the mud. The close bond between the kids and their grandfather as they cook and read together is a strong anchor for this story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rainbow-stew-interior-reading-together

Image copyright Catherine Falwell, 2013, courtesy of rainbowstewbook.com

A recipe for Rainbow Stew follows the story. Combined with the craft below, the book and recipe could make for a fun rainy-day get-together!

Ages 4 – 7

Lee & Low Books, 2013 | ISBN 978-1600608476 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1643790572 (Paperback, 2019)

National Find a Rainbow Day Activity

CPB - Rainbow Crayon Art 3

Crayon Rainbow Art

 

With this cool project you can create an art piece that’s as colorful as a rainbow and as unique as you are! Adult help is needed for children.

Supplies

  • Box of 24 crayons
  • White foam board or thick poster board, 8 inches by 17 inches
  • A small piece of corrugated cardboard, about 5 inches by 5 inches (a piece of the foam board can also be used for this step)
  • A small piece of poster board, about 5 inches by 5 inches
  • Scissors
  • X-acto knife (optional)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Hair dryer
  • Old sheets or towels, newspapers, a large box, or a trifold display board

CPB - Rainbow Crayon Art 2

CPB - Rainbow Crayon Art 1 (2)

Directions

  1. Remove the various red, orange, yellow, blue, indigo, and violet hued crayons from the box of crayons
  2. Strip the paper from the crayons by slicing the paper with the x-acto knife, or removing it by hand
  3. Line them up in order at the top of the white foam board
  4. Glue the crayons with their tips facing down to the board with the hot glue gun
  5. Cut an umbrella or other shape of your choice from the poster board
  6. Trace the umbrella or other shape onto the corrugated cardboard or a piece of the foam board and cut out
  7. Glue the poster board shape onto the corrugated cardboard, let dry
  8. Glue the umbrella or other shape to the foam board, about 4 ½ inches below the crayons
  9. Set up a space to melt the crayons. The wax will fly, so protect the floor and walls by placing the art piece in a large box or hanging newspapers, old sheets or towels on the walls and placing newspapers on the floor. A trifold display board and newspapers works well.
  10. Stand the art piece upright with the crayons at the top
  11. With the hot setting of the hair dryer, blow air at the crayons until they start to melt
  12. Move the hair dryer gently back and forth across the line of crayons from a distance of about 6 to 12 inches away. The closer you are to the crayons, the more they will splatter
  13. The crayons will begin to melt and drip downward
  14. You can experiment with aiming the hair dryer straight on or at an angle to mix colors
  15. Wax that drips onto the umbrella or other shape can be chipped off after it dries or wiped off to create a “watercolor” effect on the shape
  16. Once the hair dryer is turned off, the wax cools and dries quickly
  17. Hang or display your art!