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Writer’s Words: Helaine Becker

April 27, 2011

Helaine Becker wowed the crowd with tricks from her book Magic Up Your Sleeve in the Children’s Activity Tent on Sept. 26, 2010 at 1:15.


I’ve had the privilege of presenting at the Children’s Activity Tent now for several years. Each year is a new and thrilling experience. Honestly, The Word On The Street is one of the hardest events for an author to do; especially in the activity tent, the crowd varies hugely in age and temperament. To appeal to this diverse crowd, that includes babies, toddlers, sullen teens  dragged by their well-meaning mums, and grandparents, well, it takes grit!

This year, I was presenting from my most recent science activity book, Magic Up Your Sleeve. I chose to do a few very simple “tricks” from the book and let kids try them out themselves. The first was the magic multiplying penny – an optical illusion trick. Before long, the tent floor was covered with pennies, and lots of little ones were scrambling to collect them. Not quite the trick I had in mind! We had a very honest audience – kids were returning pennies to me by the handful. It was lovely to see.

Next we did an inertia trick – in which you try to knock a card off your finger, without dislodging the balanced penny. Cards and pennies flying!! We may not have all been ready for Las Vegas after a few tries at this trick, but we sure had fun trying it out.

Our third warmer-upper was another card trick, where you “guess” a friend’s secret card by having it turn face up when you drop a deck from waist height. Again, the cards went flying, but lots of kids had success with this one, so everyone was happy.

Our piece de resistance was to magically cut a gold star from a sheet of paper, with only one snip of the scissors. We were short of scissors (a larger than expected crowd!), so kids lined up with their folded creations (it’s a magical math origami “trick”) for me to make the snip. Then everyone was able to pin the star on themselves as their takeaway.

It was exciting, exhausting, and thoroughly fun. For me, at least.


About her book: The world of science is often described as magical — but is magic itself scientific? You bet! Magic Up Your Sleeve is full of illusive illusions and tricky tricks, which reveal just how the world of magic manipulates simple scientific principles to leave audiences baffled.