By Cheril Vernon
Messenger Copy Editor
CROCKETT – With his British accent and witty humor, Secret Agent James Wand (a.k.a. James Munton) entertained a full house of children of all ages during the “Secret Agent Magic Show,” the final program of the Crockett Public Library’s Summer Reading Club recently.
With his “Men in Black” costume, “secret agent” hat and box of tricks, Wand engaged the young audience with numerous sleights of the hand to get the kids laughing and clapping, pulling kids from the audience to help him with the many tricks he had up his sleeve.
Along the way, Wand recruited the children to help him on his journey around the world as they embarked on “Operation Read More. Their mission was to capture his arch enemy, Dr. No-No, as they visited and learned interesting tidbits about four countries: Japan, India, France and Italy. In fact, the kids learned how to say “hello” in all four languages during the show.
“Unfortunately, kids see learning as something that is not fun. You have fun — and you have learning — and they are two different things. If I succeed at what I want to do, I bring those together so they see learning is fun,” Wand said after the show. “I also think when kids are smiling and laughing and having fun, they actually learn more. They retain more as well.”
He said it’s not uncommon a week later for the kids to still remember how to say “hello” in Japanese and French “because they retain it.”
Wand also incorporates the love of books, reading and library etiquette into his interactive show about secret agents and international adventure, repeatedly telling the kids every time they read a book it makes them smarter.
“Read a book whenever you can because you have a library here and there’s lots to read, lots of books,” Wand said during the program.
Wand, who lives in Plano, presents the “Secret Agent Magic Show” to 50 to 60 libraries in Texas in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and surrounding areas every summer.
“It’s my passion in life to get them reading books,” Wand explained. “Every study you read says that if you get them reading early in life the chances are that they will be successful in life.”
During the show, many of the children had the opportunity as “secret agent volunteers” to wear “googly” sunglasses of all types ranging from bulging eyeballs, oversized bright-colored sunglasses, alien or bug eyes or ones featuring their favorite characters like Batman, Pokemon, etc. But once the show was over, Wand allowed all the children the opportunity to take a picture with him wearing their choice of sunglasses.
“I pick sunglasses up wherever I go, whenever I see something the kids might like,” Wand said about his unique collection.
This is Wand’s 20th year to present the “James Wand Spy Magic” shows.
“Foremost, I am a magician, but all of my shows have an educational aspect to them,” Wand said. “I’ve been interested in doing magic since I was as little as they are.”
Born in London, England, Wand apprenticed with a local magician and after graduating from college. He began performing professionally in 1992.
Since moving to the United States in 1997, Wand has entertained thousands of children and adults with his magic. He became a U.S. citizen in 2004.
“July Fourth is always a special holiday for me because I was naturalized and became a U.S. Citizen in 2004,” Wand said. “I’m very appreciative.”
Deanna Terry, 7, of Houston, has been visiting with family in the Crockett area and had the opportunity to attend the magic show.
“He was funny. I learned that you can do anything, it just takes time,” Terry said after the show.
Jayden Mendez, 6, of Crockett, said he enjoyed Wand’s magic tricks.
“I liked it when it went from two balls to lots of balls,” Mendez said about one of the magic tricks featuring colored balls.
Wand has performed his “Secret Agent Magic Show” at schools throughout the United States.
He has appeared on ABC, NBC and Fox News, National Geographic TV and has been featured in articles in the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. He also has performed at the International Spy Museum and at the White House.
Children’s Librarian Beth Chennette said Wand’s program was entertaining and educational.
“He has been on a number of TV stations and we found him on educationalperformers.org. He had really good reviews. Judging by the noise from the show, the kids really enjoyed it,” Chennette said.
The magic show concluded the Summer Reading Club’s 2017 schedule of events. With the theme “Build a Better World,” children met from 2 to 4 p.m. on Thursdays in June at the library.
“It keeps them involved in learning, which they need to do throughout their whole lives,” Chenette said.
During the school year, Wand offers his secret agent magic shows to elementary and middle schools with themes such as anti-bullying, Red Ribbon Week (anti-drug) and online safety.
For more information about the James Wand Secret Agent Magic Show, visit the “James Wand Magic” Facebook page or his website, www.jameswand.org.