Future Reflections  Winter/Spring 2007

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My First Bag of Tricks

by Anna Dresner
Review by Mary Anne Parks

Mary Anne ParksEditor’s Note: One of the new offerings at the National Braille Press (NBP) is a magic trick kit called, My First Bag of Tricks, edited and compiled by blind author, Anna Dresner. Undoubtedly, there are those who might think that magic tricks are “too visual” and therefore not within the scope of appropriate activities for blind kids. But magic, after all, is not really about vision. It is about the interplay between illusion and reality; it is an attitude, a state of mind, and very much about the hands being quicker or more clever than the eyes. A few years ago, at the grand opening of the NFB Jernigan Institute, we had an amateur blind magician circulate throughout the crowd amusing and entertaining guests with his magic card tricks. So, when I had the good fortune to get a sample of the My First Bag of Tricks from NBP, I started looking around for someone to test it and write a review. That’s when I met Mary Anne Parks at an NFB workshop. Parks is a blind leader in the Performing Arts Division of the National Federation of the Blind. She likes kids, and she’s not afraid to try something new. Anyway, Mary Anne agreed to take the sample kit of My First Bag of Tricks, read it, try all the tricks herself, and write a review. Here is what she has to say:

As an adult in my thirties, I found the My First Bag of Tricks collection a bit of a challenge. I felt like the adult who keeps trying, unsuccessfully, to set her VCR to record a program only to have a child nonchalantly get it set and recording properly within seconds. This is how I felt when trying to perform the tricks in this collection. You’ve seen warning labels, no doubt, on products not to be used or given to children under the age of [blank]. Well, this magic kit should have a warning label too: Adults should not attempt these tricks without a child’s assistance.

Actually, I did quite well for not having a kid around. As a whole, the instructions for this collection of tricks were straightforward and the step-by-step directions easy to understand and follow. The kit contains one Braille volume of instructions entitled My First Bag of Tricks and props for the magic tricks described in the book: a wand, a magic box, cups, ball, etc. Also included is a certificate that can be mailed off to request a free magician’s hat. All the props were neatly packaged and labeled in Braille. In addition to the instructions, I enjoyed reading about the author’s personal enjoyment of and experience with magic, her views on the importance of magic, and additional tips on how to handle magic tricks. This was a neat feature of the book that I think other readers, adults and kids, will enjoy, too.

After performing (or attempting to perform) all of the tricks in the collection, I’m satisfied that a child over the age of seven should not have any problems understanding what the tricks are supposed to do, following the instructions, and successfully performing all, or at least most, of the magic tricks. If I had had the opportunity to try these tricks when I was a kid twenty years ago, I think I would not have had any problems at all. Here’s my experience with each of the tricks I tried:

Cups and Ball: This was one of the easiest tricks to perform. The objective of this trick is to fool the observer when placing the cups on the table and shuffling them to confuse the observer about which one has the ball under it.

My First Bag of Tricks (photo courtesy of National Braille Press)Magic Drawer Box: In this trick, the objective is to not let the observer notice the false bottom in the box while the magic is taking place. This was also one of the easier tricks to perform.

Nickels to Dimes: The objective of this trick is to make it appear as if you have turned a nickel into a dime, and then turn it back again. Although I tried and tried to accomplish this trick, I was not successful. I’m convinced this is a trick that only a child can master.

Ball Vase: The objective of this trick is to get the ball into the secret compartment in the bottom of the vase without the observer noticing the switching of the ball. I found this to be one of the most difficult tricks in the collection. I confess that I was not able to figure out how the secret compartment fit onto the bottom of the vase.

Spiked Coin: In this trick, eight spikes are placed into a container that contains a coin, and then the coin is removed “magically” from the container without removing the spikes. The most difficult part of this trick for me was inserting the spikes into the container. It appeared that some of the spikes might have been bent, not allowing the spikes to easily slide into the holes of the container.

Wand Routines: These tricks were very easy to understand as well as perform. One of the routines is to give an illusion of the wand rising by holding the wand vertical in one hand while pulling on the elastic string inside of the wand.

After reviewing the collection of My First Bag of Tricks my conclusion is that it is a clever toy that any child who likes imaginative play will enjoy. I especially liked the accommodations of Braille on the packages of trick props as well as the complete instruction book in Braille. I thought the descriptions of each trick and the step-by-step directions were done exceptionally well. I would recommend this collection of magic tricks to any child who dreams of being a magician.

My First Bag of Tricks is available for $15 from National Braille Press, 88 St. Stephan Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02115; <www.nbp.org>; toll-free telephone number (888) 965-8965, or regular number (617) 266-6160.

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