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Welcome to the 15th Year of the One Book, One Community Middle School Reading Program

Join us as we welcome Deborah Noyes, author of this year’s book, The Magician and the Spirits.

Deborah Noyes is the author of books for adults, young adults, and children. She is currently on the faculty at Vermont College of Fine Arts teaching in the Master’s of Fine Arts Writing for Children and Young Adults program. She is excited to come to this year’s One Book program and will talk with students about her research for the book and will be available for a book signing.

About the Book…
After World War I many families in both England and the United States had a hard time coming to grips with the loss of a loved one in the war. This grief became the target of con artists who tricked wealthy families into believing that they could talk to the spirits of the lost loved ones. To accomplish this trick, they used many different techniques to learn important facts about their wealthy targets; including, sorting through garbage to read mail, getting jobs as housekeepers and groundskeepers to overhear conversations, and reading newspapers to gather information. Once they felt they had enough information, they would contact the wealthy families and convince them, that for a price, they could contact their loved one. One famous person who believed in this fake “spiritualism” was the famed author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote Sherlock Holmes. He wanted to believe you could talk to the spirits because he had lost a favored son in the war. Harry Houdini, who had made a living using tricks to create magic, knew that you couldn’t talk to sprits and saw these “mediums” for what they actually were, con artists. Thus began a very public disagreement between Houdini and Doyle, who up until this time, were actually friends. Houdini had regularly debunked the techniques the con artists used and shared with the public the way in which their tricks were actually performed. People stopped believing this by the mid-1920s.

About the Event…

This year’s One Book will again draw from themes in the book but will also combine activities based on actual science and critical thinking. Students attending will participate in a Breakout.edu escape room where they will need to use critical thinking to find the clues to escape the room. Chemistry faculty will be demonstrating how to create “ectoplasm” (aka elephant’s toothpaste) and eerie fog (dry ice and water). Students will learn some basic card tricks and the math and counting behind how they work. Finally, students will see a recreation of a “fortune telling” using physics and through the use of a simple machine they will see a table rise (leverage), see an “apparition” using the 18th century Pepper’s ghost optics (similar to the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland), see eerie fog (dry ice) and see a fortune teller use a crystal ball to “sense” people in the room. Students will be asked to see if they can find how the fortune teller performed the tricks and how identity theft can occur.

[Students who are not comfortable seeing the fortune telling can go to the café.]

Grand Finale…

At the end of the event, students will be treated to a real magic show by Pittsburgh magician, Tim Kutch… https://timkutch.com/