Magic inspires young bookworms

Claremont resident Jonathan Lopez, 5, helps magician John Abrams with a trick on Wednesday during an Animal Magic show at the Claremont Public Library. The show was part of the library’s Summer Reading Program, which will include other fun events throughout the summer.

Claremont kids may have turned in their textbooks, swearing off studies for a couple months of relaxation, but the Claremont Public Library has a summer agenda to encourage a bit of poolside academia.

As many as 100 young bookworms flooded the multi-purpose room on Wednesday afternoon as the local library kicked off its summer reading program with the promise of free prizes and a full schedule of programs through August 31.

Giddy children with books in tow were invited to kickstart their reading with a little bit of fun—and a few furry friends—as magician John Abrams presented his Animal Magic Show to a packed crowd of youngsters.

Making animals appear with the wave of a wand isn’t the only trick up Mr. Abrams’ sleeve. The magician knows the benefit of mixing in a lesson plan along with his magic.

“They are learning without knowing it,” Mr. Abrams insisted. “All these bells and whistles are a great launching pad for all sorts of different concepts.”

He wasn’t kidding. The kids could hardly contain themselves as Mr. Abrams led them in a chant of “I’m gonna check me out some books!” and “Reading is Delicious!”—which happens to be the theme for this year’s reading program. Their enthusiastic responses for reading were rewarded with a magically-appearing exotic pet, courtesy of their zany ringleader. With a mix of some “jungle spices,” Mr. Abrams conjured a furry white chinchilla to the oohs and aahs of the young onlookers.

Chin,” Mr. Abrams shouted pointing to his chin. “Chill,” chimed in the kids as they shimmied in mock frostiness. “Ugh,” Mr. Abrams finished, slouching and putting on a face of pretend dumbfoundedness.

Mr. Abrams has mastered the act of communicating fun facts in a way children can understand. The Los Angeles County performer, animal lover and father of 2 found a happy medium in combining his seemingly unrelated passions into one traveling gig, which often makes a stop at the Claremont Library. Programs involving animals are a fan favorite at the library and always promise a strong crowd, noted children’s librarian Vee Elliott. Bringing in a few unusual critters for the reading program kickoff was a home run for kids and program coordinators alike.

“It gives them exposure to things they normally wouldn’t have the chance to see,” Ms. Elliott said.

Though the chinchilla and Ball Python drew the largest applauses, 5-year-old Christopher Geiger insisted it was the tortoise that captured his fancy.

“He can swim and hide from sharks,” Christopher explained.

Older brother Nate, 7, an animal book aficionado, preferred the cuddly, quilled African pygmy hedgehog.

“It’s so cute!” he shared.

Though they gravitated toward the cute and calm critters over the slithery python, both boys and their friends Nick Ramos, 5, and Kaitlin Ramos, 6, insisted they weren’t scared.

Exotic animals or not, the Geiger boys and Ramos siblings have a full schedule of library outings planned for the summer months. Nate is eager to tackle the reading challenge given to him by Oakmont Principal Stacey Stewart, and perhaps the magic show will inspire his first selection.

The folks at the Claremont Library have plenty of other out-of-the-box programming to help inspire their participants’ selections. On Wednesday, June 26, kids will have the opportunity to examine ocean specimens and touch live tidepool animals with “Treasures at the Tidepool,” held at 2 and 3 p.m. for kids in 2nd through 8th grades. On July 3 it’s all about America’s Music, inspiring tunes for the Fourth of July, and the critters are back on July 10 as the Lizard Wizard explores the world of reptiles (signups required).

Tying into the theme, “Reading is Delicious,” the July 17 program treats participants to delectable goodies while learning about the science behind the food they love, such as why popcorn pops and ice cream freezes. Less brain power is needed for the July 24th program as preschoolers through eighth graders are invited to gather for a Musical Barnyard Extravaganza. Rounding out the month is a juggling show, taking place on July 31.

Children, teens and adults are invited to sign up for the reading program through August 17 at the Claremont Public Library, located at 208 N. Harvard Ave. For more information on the Summer Reading Program or for the list of summer programs, visit or call 621-4902.

—Beth Hartnett


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