Because planning a program doesn't just take 5 minutes

The Houdini Box

houdini-boxProgram Plan:

Snack on pretzels and Halloween candy (non-chocolate, since we’re doing The Chocolate Touch next month) while discussing the book.  Then learn magic tricks and share them with the group.

What Happened:

We first went around the room and everyone said what they thought of the book.  Both the kids and adults liked it for a variety of reasons – illustration, humor, mix of nonfiction and fiction.  One boy even said his favorite part was the afterword, which (in the hardcover version, at least) gave tons of info about the making of the book, including some historical photos and how they influenced Selznick’s illustrations.  After the large group response, we broke into table groups and I handed out the discussion questions, which I cut out in advance and put into envelopes so the groups could just pull out a question to discuss.  I will definitely be sticking with this format in the future, since it seems to work well.

magic-trick-setupAfter the discussion, I demonstrated a magic trick of my own, which was sufficiently impressive (thanks to my 8-year-old and the October issue of Highlights).  Then everyone learned one magic trick and demonstrated both the trick and how to do it to the group.  I laid out the instructions for each trick along with all the materials needed to do the trick.  I also gave each trick a number (using a playing card).  I had the kids pull a playing card and then learn the magic trick with the matching number.  This helped minimize fighting over who got to do the trick with the coolest looking supplies.  The kids had fun making and learning their tricks, and the demonstrations were lots of fun.  As usual, we went closer to the full hour, but no one complained.

Next month – The Chocolate Touch


Possible questions for discussion:

  1. Victor gets a chance to meet his hero, Houdini, and ask a question.  Who is your hero, and what question would you ask if you got to meet him or her in person?
  2. Brian Selznick is well known for his realistic illustration style.  Would this book have been the same without the illustrations?  Why or why not?
  3. What do you think was in the Houdini Box?  What do you think Victor will do now that he finally knows the answer?
  4. When Victor thought the Houdini Box was a fake, he was so upset he gave up on his dream of being a magician.  Have you ever had something really important to you that you grew out of or gave up on?  What would be different now if you had held onto that dream?
  5. Why do you think Houdini promised to write a letter to Victor?  What made him give Victor his secrets?
  6. In the author’s note, Selznick says there may really be a Houdini Box somewhere with all of Houdini’s secrets.  What would you do if you found it?





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