AUSTRALIAN illusionist Paul Cosentino not only has magic to thank as a career but also as the reason he learnt to read.
The shy son of a school principal mother and engineer father had spent the first 12 years of his life disguising the fact he could not read – not due to any learning difficulties, but more his inability to be engaged.
That all changed when he stumbled upon a book about magic.
“It had pictures in it, vaudevillian posters, and that was the first time I was ever interesting in even looking at a book,” Cosentino said.
“My mum read the stories to me of magicians like Houdini and at the back of the book it had magic trick instructions. I learnt to slowly read while I gained the skill of magic.
“My first trick was for my father where I made a coin disappear and from the moment I’d fooled him, I was obsessed with magic.
“I kept reading and so my reading improved which is linked to writing, spelling, it boosted my confidence so I gained presentational skills and I learned about psychology of magic because it’s not just about performing tricks but there’s audience management.”
The first Australian magician to have his own prime time TV show has now released his first book in a series of four – The Mysterious World of Cosentino #1: The Missing Ace – which he collaborated on with author Jack Heath and children’s illustrator James Hart.
The books are designed for eight to 12-year-olds and were a labour of love for Cosentino.
“I started working on it by myself at the end of 2012 after I had some ideas for some quirky kind of characters but it was just something in my spare time,” he said.
“I bumped into Scholastic the publisher in 2015, who pitched a different idea to me and I showed them what I was already working on. Instead of giving me a one-book deal, I got a four-book deal.”
Cosentino said the main character in the books was a heightened version based on himself as a kid who discovered a magic book.
“He’s not allowed to have a magic book because magic is banned in this story,” he said.
“The king keeps it for himself for selfish purposes but Cosentino wants to give magic back to the townspeople. It was great to inject my story into the book and to play this character who does things that I can’t do. It gives me ideas and lets me live out my fantasies.
“And my mum is proud that the kid who hated books and got inspired by a book now has his own book.”
The Mysterious World of Cosentino #1: The Missing Ace is out now, with book two released February 2018.