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by Judy Antell


New Kids on the Block

Inspiring Readers

By Judy Antell

The New York Public Library's 115th Street Library just reopened after a $4 million renovation. The re-do of the1908 McKim, Mead & White building includes both restoration of original architectural details and the latest technology, with new computers for library visitors, new electrical systems and elevator, and new exterior stairs. Original wood shelves and built-in benches have been restored, along with decorative banisters and marble steps. There is a store room and toddler area with bright furniture and carpeting, and an Alvin Ailey Community Room where the library can offer programming. 203 West 115th Street, near Seventh Avenue; (212) 666-9393 or www.nypl.org.

Soft & Sweet You can find the softest stuffed animals and the sweetest dresses at Le Sabon & Baby Too. The boutique, which specializes in handmade soaps and lotions and bath products from the Dead Sea, recently expanded its offerings to include gifts for babies and moms. The store is at 834 Lexington Avenue, between 63rd & 64th Streets. For hours, call (212) 319-4225 or go to www.lesabon.com.

Hey, Presto! Fantasma Toys is a new place to stock up on magic tricks and learn a few new ones as well. The store, one of the only of its kind, offers a mix of its exclusive magic items and magical products from around the world, plus puppets for ventriloquists and stage make up. Fantasma is a visual treat — when you enter, you are immediately drawn to the 3-D optical illusion greeting you; staffers, including founder Roger Dreyer, perform magic tricks, improv-style. There are free half-hour classes for ages 7 and up: magic on Thursdays at 4 and 6pm, and Saturdays at 2 and 5pm; juggling, Wednesdays at 4 and 6pm; and balloon sculpturing, Fridays at 4 and 6pm. A changing display of Houdini props make this a must-see for any budding prestidigitator. There is a room for private parties, and even entering the space is tricky. First, you have to wave your hand a special way, and a door pops open. But there is another door behind it — a safe door. If this is a birthday party, the child’s birthday magically becomes the code to the lock. And as part of a party package, the birthday child can be levitated. Fantasma Magic is at 421 Seventh Avenue, entrance on 33rd Street, 2nd Floor. For more information, go to www.fantasmamagic.com. Special! Any child who mentions ‘Big Apple Parent’ gets a free toy!

Let’s Get Messy! There is hands-on bonding at the Parent & Child Clay Connection — a new class for children ages 7-12 with adult at Greenwich House. Projects include whimsical creatures, secret compartment containers, tea party sets, fantasy vehicles and special occasion platters, bowls and vases. On Friday evenings, sculptors are encouraged to come early and share dinner in the studio from 5:30-6pm; class runs 6-7:30pm. There’s also a Saturday morning class, from 10-11:30am. Greenwich House is at 16 Jones Street, between West 4th & Bleecker. For more information, call (212) 242-4106 or go to www.greenwichhousepottery.org.

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