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Magical world of books comes to life at Mission Trail Library


Last updated 11/3/2006 at Noon

A coffee table slowly floats into the air. A young girl peeks around it in amazement. A sleeping woman elevates sidewise while leaning on a pole against her arm. Gasps of surprise erupt when she awakens and gently bicycle kicks in the air. The magical sleight of hand performed by Rafael and his assistant Katia mesmerized their young audience, who stared with wide eyes and mouths engrossed in each illusion at the Mission Trail Library on October 23. The magical, fictional world, à la Harry Potter, suddenly came to life for the large crowd of assorted Power Rangers, princesses, pirates, witches, cats and other costumed visitors compliments of the Friends of the Library.

Enticing the kids with oversized playing cards, Rafael pulled out a familiar passport to different magical worlds. “You know what my favorite card is?” he asked the entranced audience. “A library card!”

Be like Bob the Bookworm with a voracious appetite for books, he told the kids. Bob regularly digests volumes of history, geography, adventure, fairy tales and how-to books. “He even ate a magic book once!” Rafael exclaimed.

Don’t be like Rudy, he warned as he described the story of the boy with the shrinking balloon head. “He didn’t go to the library, he didn’t read books and his head kept getting smaller and smaller,” he said. All Rudy did was watch television and play video games and he turned into an airhead. Fortunately for Rudy, this story had a happy ending. “He fixed his problem by going to the library and reading books,” Rafael said.

Despite united chants of “Magic, magic, magic” and three encores during the 90-minute show, Rafael and Katia finally had to vanish. But before the show concluded, they ended on a final thought.

“If you believe in something with all of your heart,” said Rafael as he blew tiny paper snowflakes over the children, “you can do miracles.”

Dana and Rob Howell of Wildomar brought their 7-year-old daughter Gwen, dressed as a cat; 3-year-old son Ian, in a classic Halloween shirt; and newborn daughter Mia to the show. The Howells have been faithful regulars at the library since it first opened. “We go to the story time on Wednesdays at 10 a.m. and we do the summer reading program,” said Dana. Weekly visits to the library and going to the Library Friends’ programs are also part of the family schedule. Gwen and Ian chatted excitedly about the magic show afterward. One of their favorite moments was getting candy, they said.

“My goal is to try to encourage reading,” Rafael revealed in an interview after the show. Some kids come to the library to use the computers and play video games, but his message to them is to read books.

During the three years that Rafael and Katia have traveled to libraries in the city of Los Angeles and counties of Riverside, San Bernardino and other southern California library systems, they have met kids who have never been to a library. Once these kids are lured in with Friends of the Library programs, the hope is that they continue using the services.

The United States literacy rate is below some third-world countries, like Chile with its 98-percent literacy rate, says Rafael. His magic, which he started performing at age 6, can become more than tricks and entertainment.

“When you perform for kids, you are actually making a difference,” he said. If he can convince an audience member to read a book, he feels it could only help a child’s future.

Friends of the Mission Trail Library board member Mary Ruff thought the show was a wonderful way to entertain the children and their parents and reinforce the importance of reading. She enjoyed watching the expressions on the young faces and the “oohs” and “ahs” at Rafael’s every magic trick. Camera-toting parents snapped away when children were called up to help the magician. “It was wonderful the way they worked with the children,” she said. “The response from everyone was tremendous.”

The magic show did the trick when a young fan asked a parent after the show, “Can I get a book?”

Upcoming Friends of the Mission Trail Library events:

• Saturday, December 2, 1 p.m. — A Charlie Brown Christmas presented by the St. Clair Theatre

• Wednesday, December 13, 5:15 p.m. — “Frosty’s Magic Hat” performed by the Franklin Hays Marionettes


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