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Best of the National Book Festival: Neil Patrick Harris, 2019

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Welcome to our ongoing celebration of the Library of Congress National Book Festival. Each weekday, we will feature a video presentation from among the thousands of authors who have appeared at the National Book Festival and as part of our new year-long series, National Book Festival Presents. Mondays will feature topical nonfiction; Tuesday: poetry or literary fiction; Wednesday: history, biography, memoir; Thursday: popular fiction; and Friday: authors who write for children and teens. Please enjoy, and make sure to explore our full National Book Festival video collection!

The following post was written by Sasha Dowdy and Monica Valentine, program specialists in the Library’s Young Readers Center.

This event from the National Book Festival Presents series is especially for children and teens, and this blog post includes prompts for writing and thinking that young readers, families and teachers can use to explore the author and the author’s work. Recommended for ages 8+.

In today’s video, award-winning actor and author Neil Patrick Harris celebrates the publication of “The Magic Misfits: The Minor Third,” the third book in his New York Times bestselling series. Harris is introduced by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden and interviewed by Roswell Encina, the Library’s chief communications officer. This event, held in the Coolidge Auditorium of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, kicked off the new year-long National Book Festival Presents series.

Neil Patrick Harris plants a magic trick at 2:03 and starts the interview at 11:15. Timestamps for major topics are below:

  • Magic: a hobby since childhood (18:58) and a hands-on hobby (22:26)
  • The fascinating history of magic (22:57)
  • Reflecting the world through diverse characters (25:33)
  • Magical things in the world around us (29:02)
  • Magic trick! (30:01)
  • Surprise Houdini gift from the Library of Congress (33:48)
  • Q&A starts (42:27)
  • Mentalist magic trick (55:48)
  • Final magic trick (1:06:02)

Try Your Hand

Challenge yourself to learn a magic trick from one of the magicians’ handbooks available on the Library’s website:

Try it out on your family members, and remember: Magicians don’t reveal their secrets! (Unless, that is, they write a magician’s handbook.)

These magicians’ handbooks are more than a century old and are very much written in the style of their time. Try writing your own instructions for the magic trick you performed. What would you do differently to explain the trick clearly to a reader today?

Compare posters from the performances of Howard ThurstonGeorge Newmann and Harry Houdini. What differences and similarities can you find? Next, imagine what your poster would look like if you were a magician. What would your magician name be? What images and symbols would you use to represent your talents or best tricks? What words would you use to draw in a crowd? Then, design and create it!

Explore More

  1. Harry Houdini (1874-1926) is an inspiration for Neil Patrick Harris. Explore Houdini’s life through materials at the Library, such as:
  2. Explore digitized rare book and special collections on science and magic in the Library’s collections.
  3. If you are a performer or are interested in the rich history of performing arts, dive into the Performing Arts Illustrated Guide or Ask a Performing Arts Librarian.

The 2020 Library of Congress National Book Festival will celebrate its 20th birthday this year. You can get up-to-the-minute news, schedule updates and other important festival information by subscribing to this blog. The festival is made possible by the generosity of sponsors. You too can support the festival by making a gift now.