MORE ABOUT THIS BOOK
Mike Weiss had his eyes fixed on the classroom clock. It was 1:58. The minute hand lurched forward, it seemed, about once an hour. When would it be 2:00, then? Some people would say two minutes. Mike knew it would beforever.
Mrs. Canfield's fourth graders were gathered in a circle as she talked about different kinds of rocks. Some kids were passing rocks around the room: One had layers in it, like stripes, while another one was studded with shells. Yet another one was black and shiny.
"Who can remind me how sedimentary rock is formed?" Mrs. Canfield asked the class.
Who can remind me, Mike wondered, what that is? Or why I need to know?
His eyes wandered back to the clock. 1:59.
Eventually, the rock talk would be over and his class could go downstairs to meet their first-grade book buddies. Reading stories with pictures to a bunch of little kids ... that was Mike's kind of schoolwork. From now on, they'd get to do it once a week.
"Mike?" said Mrs. Canfield.
He blinked. "Yes?"
"Still with us?"
He sat up straight, like he'd been paying close attention.
Mrs. Canfield prompted him. "Sedimentary rock comes from..."
Mike cleared his throat. The whole class was watching.
Next to him, Emily Winston's hand shot up like a rocket. Mike didn't know the answer, but Emily did, and she could hardly wait to blurt it out.
Then there was a click from the clock. The minute hand jumped ahead!
Mrs. Canfield stood up and smiled. "We'll get back to this tomorrow," she told the class. "Two o'clock. Time to go! Our book buddies will be waiting."
Lucky break, Mike thought. Just in time!
There was a rush of activity as the kids stuffed their backpacks with folders and notebooks, lunchboxes and sneakers, so they'd be ready to go home at the end of the day. Then everyone lined up at the door to walk downstairs. It wasn't easy, but Mike managed not to speak above a whisper in the hallway. That was the rule, and he wasn't taking any risks.
Mike tried really hard not to get in trouble at school these days. If he went to the principal's office, she'd call Mike's parents. And if Ms. Scott called his parents, he'd lose an important privilege: biking downtown, all by himself, to The White Rabbit. The world's best magic shop.
The fourth graders filed into Mrs. Kavanaugh's room and stood in a row. The first graders observed them, quiet as mice, from their tiny chairs. Who would he be paired with? Mike wondered. The girl in the unicorn shirt? The boy with the glasses?
The classroom was bright and cheerful, with kids' art all over the wall. On a table in the back, Mike spotted a jumbo bag of pretzels and two bottles of apple juice. Snacks! Mike thought. The afternoon was looking even better. He clutched the book he'd brought to read to his buddy. Sometimes he liked little kids, like his cousins Jake and Lily, better than kids his own age.
"Welcome, fourth graders!" said Mrs. Kavanaugh. "Are we ready to get started?" She passed around a cardboard box, and each of Mike's classmates selected a name from it.
When it was Mike's turn, he stuck his hand in the box and read the name out loud. "Lucas?" he asked, scanning the faces in front of him. A boy with long, shaggy hair raised his hand. "That's me!" he called out. He and Mike walked to the snack table together.
Mike took charge of the apple juice, and unfolded his getting-to-know-you worksheet. This was supposed to make the first grader feel at home with him. "Do you have any pets?" Mike asked. "What are their names?"
Lucas just sat there with his mouth hanging open. His two front teeth were missing.
Can he talk? Mike wondered. It might be hard with missing teeth.
Can he eat pretzels? Mike wasn't sure what to do. Break the snacks into pieces?
"Maybe we should just start reading," he said. The book he'd brought was called The Magic Hat. He was pretty sure a first grader would like it. Mike showed Lucas the cover.
"I knew it!" said Lucas, just about jumping out of his seat. "You're the magician!"
"I do like magic...." Mike admitted.
"I saw you on the playground!" Lucas said. "When I was waiting for the bus!"
He must have seen the Great Escape, Mike realized. With that illusion, he'd tricked Jackson Jacobs, the meanest kid in school!
Lucas was really excited. "I saw you in the lunchroom, too!" he insisted. "You're famous!"
Suddenly, Mike felt two feet taller. Famous? He liked the sound of that. Too bad he didn't see what was coming next.
"Could you do a trick for me?" asked Lucas.
Mike looked around the room. All the names had been chosen and all the kids had broken up into pairs. Mrs. Kavanaugh and Mrs. Canfield were moving around slowly, making sure the getting-to-know-yous were going well.
I'm supposed to make Lucas feel comfortable, Mike thought. And nobody said I couldn't do magic.
He was trying so hard to do everything right! When magic was involved, though, Mike couldn't help himself.
As usual, he had a deck of cards in his pocket. He pulled the cards out and held the four jacks in front of him, like a fan. "See these jacks?" he said to Lucas. "I'm going to put them right here on top of the deck."
"Okay," said Lucas, watching.
Mike put the four jacks on top of the deck and lifted the first one off again. "Now, I'm going to place this jack someplace inside the deck," he said. He stuck it in with the other cards at random and continued, "I'll do that with the other jacks, too."
Next, he handed the deck to Lucas. "Can you hold these for a second?" When Lucas got hold of them, Mike said, "Now, take the four cards off the top for me, okay?"
Lucas's jaw dropped as he peeled off four jacks in a row.
"Voila," said Mike, scooping the cards out of his hands and wishing, like always, that he had a good magic word. "The four jacks jumped to the top!"
"That's sick," Lucas said in awe.
Mike looked over at Mrs. Canfield. She was talking to Oscar and heading in his direction. Mike stuck the cards back in his pocket.
"I think we should start the book now, okay?" he said to Lucas.
The story was about a wizard, not a magician. He had a hat that could make him invisible and allow him to fly. It could make stuff appear and disappear, too. But even the wizard didn't know it could shoot red-hot lightning bolts-until another wizard tried to steal it!
1. START BY REMOVING THE FOUR JACKS FROM A DECK OF CARDS AND HOLDING THEM OUT, LIKE A FAN, TO SHOW YOUR AUDIENCE.
WHAT YOUR AUDIENCE DOESN'T KNOW IS THAT YOU HAVE HIDDEN FOUR RANDOM CARDS BEHIND THE FAN. HOLD THESE CARDS AT THE BACK OF THE FAN WITH YOUR THUMB, WHILE USING THE REST OF YOUR FINGERS TO HOLD THE VISIBLE CARDS AT THE FRONT.
2. THEN, WITH BOTH HANDS, BRING THE JACKS TOGETHER, KEEPING THE RANDOM CARDS HIDDEN BEHIND THEM.
3. NEXT YOU'LL PUT THE EIGHT CARDS-WHICH THE AUDIENCE THINKS ARE JUST FOUR-FACEDOWN ON TOP OF THE DECK.
4. REMOVE THE TOP CARD-WHICH YOU KNOW TO BE RANDOM-AND TELL YOUR AUDIENCE "I WILL PLACE THIS JACK SOMEWHERE IN THE DECK." DO EXACTLY THE SAME THING WITH THE NEXT THREE CARDS. BE CAREFUL NOT TO SHOW THE AUDIENCE THE FACES OF THE CARDS!
5. WAVE YOUR HAND DRAMATICALLY OVER THE WHOLE DECK. THEN TURN OVER THE TOP FOUR CARDS TO SHOW THAT THE JACKS HAVE "JUMPED" TO THE TOP OF THE DECK! LET THE AUDIENCE LOOK THROUGH THE DECK TO BE SURE THAT YOU HAD ONLY FOUR JACKS TO START WITH.
Lucas's mouth dropped open again when the wizards met. He gripped the desk till the magic hat saved the day. "Let's read it again!" he said when it was over.
Lucas was supposed to read a book of his own, though. "Sun," read Lucas slowly. "Rain." His book had only one word on each page, but Mike didn't mind. He remembered when he was in first grade. He wasn't good at reading, either.
When their time was up, Lucas didn't want to say good-bye. "See you next week, buddy," Mike said, with a light punch to his shoulder. Lucas beamed, and for a minute Mike felt like he really was famous.
Mrs. Canfield's class trooped back upstairs just as the end-of-the-day announcements began. Mike was only half-listening, as usual. If there was anything important, his parents would tell him.
"Now for some news that will brighten the dark winter days!" Mrs. Warren, the school secretary, said cheerfully.
Why were grown-ups always talking about making the winter better? Mike wondered. He and his friends loved the winter! But grown-ups didn't play outside in the snow.
Mrs. Warren went on. "On Monday, we will start putting together our first-ever talent show!"
A talent show? The announcement was like an electric shock.
Now Mike was listening hard.
Mrs. Warren continued, "Bring your act, ready to perform, to the gym after school on Monday afternoon. This is not an audition, but an open call for acts. We will spend the week rehearsing, with the big show Friday night!" Then she moved onto another announcement about the Lost and Found.
Mike wasn't always into school activities. And okay, it wasn't like anyone was begging him to join the school clubs. But he actually had a talent, the kind he could show onstage! Chess Club kids couldn't say that, could they?
Some people, like Lucas, had seen Mike's magic already. But he could do so much more! What if he didn't have to steal time during class? What if he had a stage all to himself? Then he'd really be famous! Just like his distant relative, Harry Houdini.
Suddenly, the coming weekend was full of purpose. Mike would pick out his best magic, practice with Nora, plan his show.
It was time to get his act together!
Text copyright © 2015 by Kate Egan and Mike Lane
Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Eric Wight