Australian illusionist Paul Cosentino is no stranger to staging his tricks for television, including a deep run on Australia’s Got Talent in 2011. The magician is making a return to the small screen with a new four-part special called The Elements: Cosentino. The series premieres on January 18 and airs across Asia on the AXN network. He spoke with the Jakarta Globe about the show and his career in magic.

“Unfortunately for me in Australia, when I started, there was no YouTube, there was no Google. I learned through books and I taught myself,” he said. “I’ve never had a teacher. I’ve never had a mentor. It’s a bit of a negative thing because it took longer to learn, but it was also positive because you learned by practice and learned by going out there and actually doing it.”

Cosentino’s particular style of escape magic is one that is known for taking a long time to perfect. He acknowledges that some of his tricks are ten years old. Escape stunts are also a dangerous field to just jump into without that expert guidance as he did. And although he’s become a well-respected escape artist in the international magic community, Cosentino has had his share of accidents.

“You plan, you try to control the horrible as much as you can,” he said.

Cosentino is more than just a lauded performer. He also partnered with Scholastic Australia to help create a book series called The Mysterious World of Cosentino. Each of the titles includes a few magic how-tos and is designed to inspire grade schoolers. 

Cosentino is easily Australia’s most popular magician, with multiple prime-time television specials and a tour that’s currently running throughout Asia. But that wasn’t always the case. As a child, Cosentino had trouble learning and performing basic tasks in school, and it wasn’t until he connected with magic that he finally found an outlet that let him find his confidence. Now, Cosentino wants to give something back to kids who may feel the same way, and has partnered with Scholastic Australia to co-write a book series for grade schoolers.

The series is titled The Mysterious World of Cosentino, is co-written with Jack Heath and illustrated by James Hart, and each entry recounts the adventures of a cartoonified version of Cosentino, along with a cadre of magical friends, each one based on magic tools like playing cards or a magic wand. Each book will also contain kid-friendly instructions on how to perform an assortment of magic tricks.

“I know what it’s like to be that kid who sits up the back of the classroom and avoids asking questions so you don’t look silly,” Cosentino told The West Australian. “I thought it was a good way for me to give back to some degree. But also to explain to children [that] you may see me on TV or see my live show but it wasn’t always like this. I was that kid who was struggling, who had learning difficulties.”

The first book in the series, subtitled The Missing Ace, is currently only available in Australia for $9.99 AUD. Future books are planned, with the second installment to arrive in February, and two more titles coming later in 2018. Australian buyers can order the book from Booktopia or other local retailers. If you don’t live in Australia but are still interested in picking it up, Amazon has imports of the book available through third-party sellers.