Sunday, October 23, 2016

Wizard Science: Labcraft Wizards: Magical Projects and Experiments by John Austin

For aspiring young wizards, the last quarter of the year offers two theaters of action to show off their skills--Halloween magic shows and upcoming science fairs. And this two-for-one handbook of potions and spellbinding physical phenomena offers would-be Harrys and Hermiones step-by-step directions for mastering potions and spells without the nefarious supervision of Severus Snape or Horace Slughorn.

John Austin's Labcraft Wizards: Magical Projects and Experiments (Chicago Review Press, 2016) is a manual of magico-science which begins at the beginning with crafty instructions for the making of the necessary magical accouterments--wands, hourglasses, and a whiz-bang atmospheric enhancer, the dazzling Smoke Ring Launcher which also demonstrates the principal of the toroidel vortex.

From there author Austin moves on props such as Ogre Snot, a colloidal gelatin-in-a-jar magical cure-all (labels provided in the appendix), Glycerin Smoke,  wispy and evocative for spell-casting, and the ever-popular Cloud in a Jar, which opens to a miniature storm.  It's helpful for the young spellmeister to have a few other easily concocted props around. Some projects, like the Dragon Egg, require only a raw egg in the shell, vinegar, and perhaps a drop or two of food coloring, depending upon the color of your dragon, a simple project which demonstrates the action of acid upon calcium and the principal of osmosis and also produces an egg that will bounce. Others, such as Hot Ice, the Two-Liter Tornado, and Frozen Snowstorm, require some time and skill to carry off and demonstrate more advanced scientific principles.

All experiments/tricks make use of inexpensive common household substances. A few require having on hand substances like the spice shelf staple cream of tartar, the presence of which depends on whether Mom makes meringue often, or an aerosol hair or freshener spray. Meticulous attention is paid to making homemade apparatus from household objects like coat hangers, ballpoint pens and pencils, masking tape, jars and plastic bottles, with appropriate safety warnings for using heat or sharp tools.

When Halloween is over, when Christmas trees come down, and school holidays end, there comes the sometimes-dreaded Science Project Season and the subsequent scramble for helpful handbooks for those assignments which profit from step-by-step, illustrated instructions, and Labcraft Wizards: Magical Projects and Experiments, provides plenty of intriguing projects with a clever hook--wizardly science. Says School Library Journal, "Use this spellbinding selection to introduce students to science through play and for book club activities with a magical or fantasy theme."

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