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Four children wish on a Half Magic coin that gets their mother Alison half-way home, rescued by Mr Smith. Mark's wish zaps them to a desert without island, where half-talking cat Carrie gabbles to a camel. Romantic Katherine battles Launcelot. Eldest Jane rejects siblings for another family. Stubborn youngest, Martha, causes a riot downtown.

192 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1954

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About the author

Edward Eager

22 books300 followers
Eager was born in and grew up in Toledo, Ohio and attended Harvard University, class of 1935. After graduation, he moved to New York City, where he lived for 14 years before moving to Connecticut. He married Jane Eberly in 1938 and they had a son, Fritz.

Eager was a childhood fan of L. Frank Baum's Oz series, and started writing children's books when he could not find stories he wanted to read to his own young son. In his books, Eager often acknowledges his debt to E. Nesbit, whom he thought of as the best children's author of all time.

A well-known lyricist and playwright, Eager died on October 23, 1964 in Stamford, Connecticut, at the age of fifty-three.

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5 stars
12,502 (33%)
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742 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,835 reviews
Profile Image for emma.
1,825 reviews48.6k followers
March 23, 2021
I believe this book genuinely is magic, for two reasons:
1) It came into my life as if propelled by the power of the universe itself.
2) It is a children's book from the 1950s (!!!) that condemns colonialism (!!!!!) and has cool, powerful female characters.

It's good stuff.

Unfortunately, because I never read it as a kid, I didn't have any of that nostalgia coursing through my veins, so I was just a 23 year old reading a children's book for the first time. And even when the children's content is good, I have a weird vendetta against it. (Being the eldest child and constantly trying to be cooler than I am, I spent my entire adolescence training myself to hate kids' movies and TV shows and books, just to ruin my younger siblings' time. I'm a good sister.)


Bottom line: Not the book's fault I'm not the target audience - and this was still a delight.


so much fun.

review to come / 3 stars (but in a good way)

tbr review

once upon a time, i received the most enthusiastic book recommendation of my life for a classic children's fantasy series i'd never heard of. the very next day, as i was shopping at a used bookstore, a copy of one installment was on the first shelf i looked at.

so i'm assuming this is going to give me magical powers.

(thanks alice!)
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 29 books13.7k followers
January 12, 2020
"It seems a shame," said Jane, "that no one's going to know about our adventures. They would make such a good book. If only we could write them down!"

"But how would we do that?" asked Mark. "We're just kids. Oh. Wait. You don't mean..."

"I certainly do!" said Jane. "We just have to wish for it, and the Charm will take care of the rest. But we need to wish very carefully. Now, what kind of book do we want it to be?"

"I want it to be like one of E. Nesbit's books!" said Katherine. "Though... if the Charm makes the book like one of hers... you don't think it would be stealing, do you? That would be very wrong."

"We could put in an Acknowledgement," said Mark. "Mr. Smith was telling me about that just the other day. We Acknowledge her Influence, and then it will be quite alright. Now, let's make the wish. And remember that we have to ask for twice as much of everything as we really want."

"You don't think I'd forget that, do you?" asked Jane scornfully. "Charm... we wish that two authors could write two books about our adventures, and we wish that both the books will be just like E. Nesbit's books, and we wish that both books will have an Acknowledgement where the author says how much he thanks her for Influencing him, and we wish that it should be a very graceful and polite Acknowledgement."

She was quite out of breath by the time she had finished. A moment later, there was the book, sitting on the table between them! It was called Half Magic, and the author was a Mr. Edward Eager. Mark picked it up and opened it.

"Oh look!" he said wonderingly. "Here's how we find the Charm! And here's where we meet Sir Launcelot! And here's the bit where we nearly cause a riot! But wait... it's not quite like E. Nesbit. To start off with, we're American!"

"You should have asked for it to be twice as much like E. Nesbit as E. Nesbit was!" said Katherine. "You didn't think carefully enough."

"How can anything be twice as much like someone as they are themselves?" asked Jane, with the keen metaphysical intuition that comes so naturally to young children. "That doesn't make sense, so I couldn't have wished for it." And the others had to admit that she was right.

"Look for the Acknowledgement!" said Martha. Mark thumbed feverishly through the pages.

"I've found it!" he said triumphantly after a few minutes. "It's right here on page ten." And it was such a fine Acknowledgement that I must write it down here so that you can read it too.
That summer, the children had found some books by a writer called E. Nesbit, surely the most wonderful books in all the world. They read every one that the library had, right away, except a book called The Enchanted Castle, which had been out.

And now yesterday The Enchanted Castle had come in, and they took it out, and Jane, because she could read fastest and loudest, read it loud all the way home, and when they got home she went on reading, and when their mother came home they hardly said a word to her, and when dinner was served they didn't notice a thing they ate.
If you ever have to write an Acknowledgement yourself, you may want to use the one the Charm had written as a model; and I can hardly imagine an author who would not be proud and happy to hear that some other author had so admired their work.
Profile Image for Melody.
2,629 reviews262 followers
September 8, 2012
Would you believe I grew up in Toledo, Ohio and never noticed while reading and re-reading this that it was set in my hometown? It's true. I don't know if I just figured ALL books were set there, and that's why the street names were so familiar or if I was just extraordinarily clueless. I figured it out finally when I was reading this to my son. It seems worth talking about in view of how worried people sometimes get about kids getting the wrong message from books- sometimes kids don't even notice the town the book is set in, not to worry about the other things!

So, this time through, I was paying more attention. The story is delightful, the kids complex and interesting- but oh, how I love the cat! And Merlin, with his entirely lovely speech, made me cry a little.

To wit:

'"But what about the good deed I wished?" said Katharine. "None of the ones I tried worked out!"

"My child," said Merlin, and his smile was very kind now, "you have done your good deed. You have brought me word that for as far into time as the twentieth century, the memory of Arthur, and of the Round Table, which I helped him to create, will be living yet. And in that far age people will still care for the ideal I began, enough to come back through time and space to try to be of service to it. You have brought me that word, and now I can finish my work in peace, and know that I have done well. And if that's not a good deed, I should like to know what is..."'
782 reviews11 followers
August 25, 2010
Mostly, I love this book. I liked it as a kid (except for that caveat I'll get to in a minute). I like it now, as a grown-up. The story is interesting and engaging. The trouble the kids get themselves into is believable (well, for a fantasy novel...!), and I like their solutions. The problem of having to double all your wishes is interesting to me. The only thing is...

The only thing is that a whole chapter is taken up with a trip to a desert, where the children run across an evil, wicked, terrible Arab man. Even the illustration is an ugly caricature. There isn't even a feasible way to avoid this part - it's interwoven in the story in such a way that you can't simply say "Look, this is a part that I feel is inappropriate, we're not reading it today" and skip to the next part.

Now, I know, somebody is going to pop up and say "But you can't judge books from 60 years ago according to OUR standards today!" Fair enough. But I'm not reading this book to a child 50 years ago. I'm reading it (or not, actually - I haven't put it on my to-be-read list yet precisely because of this problem) to children NOW. Even when I was a kid, a mere 30 years after the book's publication, that part made me uncomfortable.

Am I saying you're bad for liking this book? Absolutely not. I like this book! Am I saying you shouldn't read this book to your children, or allow them to read it? Not necessarily. I certainly support you if that is your choice, but that's not what I mean to say. All I'm saying is that you should read this book yourself before you read it with your children (or use it in a classroom, especially if you have Arab students!), and decide for yourself the best way to approach this issue. It may be to find a way to skip that passage, or it may be to not read the book just yet (or at all - there are plenty of good books out there, choosing one always requires NOT-choosing another!) or it may be to discuss this part with your children and explain your views on the subject, or it may be that you think it's not a big deal. (I disagree with the last, but that's your choice.)

Other than that one thing, this is a very good book. It's just that that one thing is SO important. Please pre-read this book.
Profile Image for Jennifer (Insert Lit Pun).
315 reviews1,974 followers
May 17, 2020
If I could pick one book to hand to any random child, it might be this one. WHAT a book.
Also as the youngest of four, the character intro "Martha was the youngest, and very difficult" speaks to me deeply.
Profile Image for Meg Cabot.
Author 288 books33.6k followers
July 12, 2014
Edward Eager's Half Magic was 1 of my favorite comfort books as a kid and I can still quote from it.
Profile Image for Jesse Doogan.
26 reviews27 followers
March 7, 2011
Summertime belongs to childhood. The grown-up version, with BBQs and yard work, can’t compare to the long, long days spent exploring and digging in the dirt.

Now, I’m a winter girl, through and through, but when the lightning bugs start to rise up out of the grass, I start to ache for the summers from when I was little. Unfortunately, all the kids who used to comeoutandplay have moved on, and I’ve been trying to eat less dirt, so I was at a loss for a way to revisit my summers.

Then I remembered Edward Eager. Eager was a Harvard grad and a sophisticated, grown-up playwright. He never thought about writing children’s books until he had his own son. They quickly read through Eager’s favorites, E. Nesbit’s fairy stories and the Oz books, but then Eager couldn’t find anything else to read to his kid. So he decided to write the stories himself. Writer’s perogative.

Half Magic is Eager’s first fairy tale. It’s about a group of four children, three girls and one boy, who recently lost their father. (Those unfortunate children who keep both their parents must resign themselves to utterly uninteresting lives.) Their mother can’t afford to take them to the country for vacation, and the kids are at a loss for a way to make their summer worthwhile. One day, while on their way to the library, the children find an old, worn nickel.

After a few accidental mis-wishes and much discussion, the kids realize that it’s the coin they found that’s causing the magic–well, a little magic. Somehow, because of the age and wear of the coin, it will only grant half of each wish.

The wishes, done by halves, bring the kind of adventures you only find in proper fairy tales. They have rules and consequences and the adventure is in learning how to manipulate the magic. Each child gets a day in charge of the wishing, and each day of wishes gets a few chapters to play out.

Later on in the book, when the children understand the coin fully, the wishes get a bit boring–”I wish X times two” takes care of the guess work–but until then, there are several good mishaps. (My favorite is when they wish that the cat can talk. Have you ever met a cat who can half talk? That’s not a happy cat.)

So, if you need a way to rekindle your vacation time, check out Edward Eager’s books. (Read the first chapter of HM here.) They’re fast, funny, charming reads. Most of them take place over the course of a few warm days, and they’ll all bring you back to the time when lightning bugs were only a fraction of your summer magic.

Read if:

You’re looking for the most appealing way possible to spend an afternoon with fractions.
You can’t find anyone to play Ghost in the Graveyard with.
You want a proper fairy tale.

Disclaimer: I got this book and many others from my family’s close friend, Jeri. Every year for my birthday, Jeri would give me a big box of old books. (These would last me a couple of days, and then my reading habits would continue to be a financial burden for my parents, who raised me to buy books before food, and gladly kept me fed.) Jeri introduced me to lots of my favorites, and I’d be remiss not to mention her in a post about Edward Eager. If I didn’t give her credit, she’d threaten to tan my fanny.

I reviewed this book on my blog here:
Profile Image for Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore.
762 reviews169 followers
July 2, 2017
Four children―Jane, Katherine, Mark, and Martha―come upon a magic charm. Only it makes just half of what you wish true. The children realise this soon enough and word their wishes so that they can get all of what they want, and start off on a set of exciting adventures which take them to different places and times. But while their wishes do come true, they find that the outcome may not be quite what they were looking for, and they are not always in the right frame of mind to make a carefully worded wish each time. Needless to say, they have a fair share of scrapes and realise they must be careful what they wish for. On the other hand, the charm itself turns out to be more magical than they realise working for them certain magic they hadn’t wished for (or even thought of) which bring them much happiness in the long run. This was not a book or series I’d read as a child and if I’d read it then, I think I would have had much more fun with the adventure elements, though the later parts of the story I think I appreciated better as an adult. The children themselves were real, and rather nice without at the same time being too storybook “good”. I enjoyed the book quite a lot overall, especially the literary references which it was full of including to Nesbit (who’s Psammead books were quite clearly an inspiration(as a GR friend also pointed out)), and the Ingoldsby Legends. Fun read.
Profile Image for Chris.
744 reviews99 followers
October 11, 2021
It was fine weather, warm and blue-skied and full of possibilities, and the day began well, with a glint of something metal in a crack in the sidewalk. ‘Ooh, a lucky nickel!’ Jane said, and scooped it into her pocket with the rest of her allowance, still jingling there unspent.

Thus begins a period of enchantment for four young siblings from Toledo, Ohio, a week when they learn the wisdom of the adage “Be careful what you wish for” but also the understanding of when to give it all up. Along the way we the readers gain enjoyment from a narrative that appeals both to young imaginations and to maturer minds who love witty yet also wise writing.

Jane, who finds the talisman, is the oldest: a little hot-headed and bossy but otherwise admirable. Mark is the only boy, around eleven years old, and fairly pragmatic. Katharine is the most bookish of the lot (though they’re all avid fans of the nearest library) and often spouting literary references. Martha is the youngest, easily bored but surprisingly full of sensible ideas.

Their mother Alison, working as a “woman’s journalist” to keep the family afloat in 1920s Toledo after the death of the children’s father, fears for her sanity when odd inexplicable things start happening, and dares not get too fond of the funny but nice Mr Smith who rescues this very 20th-century damsel in distress. All is made more complex by the existence of the weird half magic which the “lucky nickel” bestows on whoever possesses it. And worries begin to grow that its magic will eventually wear out.
It was the size of a nickel and the shape of a nickel and the colour of a nickel, but it wasn’t a nickel.

It was worn thin — probably by centuries of time, Jane told herself. And instead of a buffalo or a Liberty head, it bore strange signs.

In this, the first of a series, Edward Eager was drawing on a number of influences, several of which the author and even the bookish Katharine actually cite. The magic talisman, which is evidently of Middle Eastern origin, is partly indebted to the magical object which features in Edith Nesbit’s The Story of the Amulet; at the start of Half Magic the children are very taken by the same author’s The Enchanted Castle. This eventually leads them to want to visit Camelot, in an amusing episode which openly acknowledges its debts to T H White’s The Once and Future King, to Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and Sidney Lanier’s The Boy’s King Arthur.

The farcical feel of the events in this episode is present in all those experienced by the children in turn, continuing with the near slapstick resulting from Martha’s wish not to be forced to watch a 1924 silent film (Sandra, starring the once celebrated Barbara LaMarr). And yet the whole novel feels very grounded: the children for example are very real, with well defined characters, even when they seem to run rings round the unimaginative adults. The neighbourhood is based on real streets in what’s known as Toledo’s historic Old West End, with West Bancroft Road, Virginia Street, Maplewood Avenue and Monroe Street all name-checked. This is clearly an area the author knew well from his childhood, possibly when skating around the sidewalks.

An accomplished playwright, Eager writes very comfortably for children: the story was evidently originally concocted for his son Fritz, whose name is constantly hinted at when Carrie the cat is granted the power of speech. And Eager is also able to comfortably juggle the needs of two audiences simultaneously: he never talks down to his child readers, taking them instead into his confidence; but he also addresses the adults, as when he tells us that

The four children generally divided all grown-ups into four classes. "There were the ones like Miss Bick and Uncle Edwin and Aunt Grace and Mrs Hudson who — frankly, and cruel as it might be to say it — just weren’t good with children at all. There was nothing to do about these, the four children felt, except be as polite as possible and hope they would go away soon."

Then there were the adults who “always seemed to want to pretend they were children, too”; those who treated children as though the youngsters were also grown-up (“Many of the four children’s school teachers fell into this class”); and finally there were the adults who felt there wasn’t any reason why children and grown-ups “couldn’t get along perfectly well and naturally together, and even occasionally communicate…”

I’ve had this novel recommended to me for a while and now I get why: not just the fantasy and the whimsy and the Arthurian and Arabian Nights references but particularly the intelligent and, yes, sensitive writing — as when Jane is conflicted about accepting Mr Smith as a possible suitor for her mother Alison, and Alison’s own reluctance about falling in love when she fears she’s losing her wits. In this the influence of Edith Nesbit’s children’s fiction shines through. And I see there are sequels…

This edition will have been slightly adapted for British postwar readers, though why words like ‘sidewalk’ would have needed to be replaced by ‘pavement’ when they presented no problem in US movies is curious. Luckily the original N M Bodecker drawings have been retained and they add to the charm that this “Enchanted Summer” casts over the reader.
Profile Image for sj.
404 reviews80 followers
November 9, 2012
Originally posted here as part of the 30 Day Book Challenge.

This one is easy.

The Book That Made Me Fall In Love With Reading

I don't even know what to say about this book. If you haven't read it, you should. If you have younger children, read it to them.

Half Magic was written in the 50s about a family living in the 20s, so of course it's dated, but it's still as full of charm as ever. As an adult I catch little literary references that I missed when I was young, and that adds to my love of this book (more so than the others in the series).

I was an only child until I was 10, so before that, reading about this family of brothers and sisters gave me a bit of a pang. I wanted siblings to have summertime adventures with. This was my favourite book to read during the summer (followed closely by Magic by the Lake , which follows the same siblings), curled up in some quiet nook at my grandparents' house. I found these books there one year and Nan told me I could have them. I don't know which of my dad's siblings they belonged to, but I think it was my aunt.

I kind of never wanted to ask because it felt like they had appeared just for me. [shrug] I know, kids are silly.


I still pick up coins and make double wishes on them, hoping that they'll come true.
Profile Image for Spencer.
97 reviews3 followers
March 28, 2009
I read the first 2 chapters a day or two ago and was intrigued. Today I picked it up again and read the third chapter. It had me laughing out loud. So, I finished it today.

This is, apparently, a children's book. Back in the day, children were considerably more well-read. They would have had to be, otherwise they would miss the multitude of references to other works of literature. For example there is the part that goes something like this (not quoting verbatim, but it goes something generally like this):

"This," said Katharine, "is exactly what I would call a tulgey wood."
"Don't!" said Martha. "What if something were to come whiffling through it?"

And that was it. There was no further explanation. The story just went on. How many children do you know these days that have actually read any of Lewis Carroll's works?

I suspect that this is one of those books that can be read and understood well enough by children, but can be appreciated much more by adults. I thought it was very clever. In fact, I would not be surprised if there were things in this book that I didn't catch.

The pacing was good - at times it was slow and nothing particular seemed to happen (which was as it should be - after all, the children are having a dreadfully boring summer at first), but at other times! Bam, bam, bam, bam! One thing right after another!

All in all, it was Good Stuff. I recommend it.
Profile Image for Lisa Vegan.
2,763 reviews1,218 followers
July 29, 2022
Loved this book in elementary school. This is my favorite book in the series and the one I remember best also. I love the “half magic” concept. Charming adventure story. Like the kids. Love the magic, especially the way it works in this book. Really imaginative.
Profile Image for Linda ~ they got the mustard out! ~.
1,579 reviews104 followers
May 15, 2022
I remember reading this several times back in second or third grade. I remembered the general premise, and that there was a fire, but that's about it. Listening to the audiobook today was an interesting experience. I can see why little me enjoyed this so much. It does have a certain charm, and smarter than average kid protags. But this is very much a children's book. It's a series of random adventures and non-sensical details. Like Sir Lancelot joisting against a pre-pubescent girl. Because that would ever happen. Of course, everyone's amazing and everything works out just perfectly, and the siblings get along and are very considerate of each other at all times. Well, almost all times.

The good news is that it aged mostly well. Aside from a random adventure in the Sahara with a caricature Arabic character, there wasn't much to raise eyebrows over, and even he faired just as well as good old Lancelot did in the portrayal department. This was refreshingly free of angst, mopey, dumb kids, and annoying parents. So other than the lack of handhelds, even kids today should be able to enjoy this.
Profile Image for colleen.
231 reviews4 followers
March 8, 2007
oh, one of my all time favorites. i LOVE when they wish the cat could talk and since it is half-magic, the cat's every other word is "meow."

i bought this (and the rest of the series) for my niece for christmas a couple of years ago, and i can't wait until my daughters are old enough to read it.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
4,249 reviews
October 22, 2009
I've been meaning to read this for awhile now. Yesterday, as my husband and I were unpacking some book boxes, he found his boyhood copy (which was much beloved--I had no idea!) and I'm now happily reading it. A bit of "half magic" indeed that I wanted a copy and got his! ;->
Profile Image for Blake.
45 reviews
September 17, 2010
I was excited to read Half Magic because I thought it was a pretty cool idea for a book-- that these children receive magical powers but the magic only half works. While the kids end up on some neat adventures and the book does have some funny moments, overall it didn't really live up to my hopes. Part of it was that I didn't think the way the half magic played out was all that cool -- like when Jane is so mad that she wishes there was a fire (weird to begin with...) and a fire comes, but only it's only big enough to burn down a little girl's playhouse...???...um, that was a weird start...

Anyway, I know that this book is meant for transitional readers and I think a lot of kids would enjoy it, but, I don't think I could recommend it to them. There's definitely some sexist stuff going on (the brother always knows best... the sisters (even the oldest) are pretty clueless; the mother's "heart's desire" is to be married and stay at home), and the thing that made me real uncomfortable was the weird racism-- the way the "evil Arab" gets depicted (both the writing and the drawing!) is not ok...not to mention the way the kids talk to him when they first see him...

I read this for class and my prof made the point that she'd only recommend this to children if they had a parent or teacher who could explain the context in which the book was written (it was written in 1954) and how some of the things I mentioned are messed up.. but I kind of feel like, what's the point? so many other good children's books out there...
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Hafsa Sabira.
224 reviews47 followers
September 10, 2017
The novel is about four siblings finding a magic coin which can grant their wishes,but only half of it. However,having a magic in life isn't that easy and the wishes must be carefully uttered,otherwise the summer adventures will turn into more than just adventures. Gradually the siblings have to learn to control the magic in their lives while the magic will transform them too.

The book has this "The Little Peppers" and "The Little Women" vibe in the narrative. Not a fan of such writing style but this book is great for children stepping into the world of literature. I might have loved it if I read it during my childhood but well,it wasn't a bad reading either.
Profile Image for Samantha Matherne.
554 reviews52 followers
July 18, 2021
A simple magical tale set in simpler times. This book teaches the age old lesson of being careful what you wish for in a fun, lighthearted way that takes the four children on exciting adventures. I also really enjoyed all the references to other classic children’s books. After finishing the first tale of magic, I’m curious to read the other six.
Profile Image for Friend of Pixie.
611 reviews27 followers
March 20, 2012
Listened to this on CD on a trip and Logan loved it. This is the first of Eager's magic books. He was a great fan of E. Nesbit and his books pay homage to her. A group of siblings finds a coin that grants wishes, but they realize quickly that they only get half what they wish for. Of course, even when they figure that out, it's still true that that wishes often don't turn out quite the way you planned! Some sexism, as it was written in the 50's about the 20's, but other than that, nice family entertainment.

UPDATE: We rea-read this almost 3 years later (I read it aloud this time) and he didn't remember having read it before, when he was 5. He laughed so hard at the family cat being able to half talk that we had to stop so he could run downstairs to pee. He made me re-read that chapter to daddy the next day. Edward Eager never fails to satisfy, especially if you like E. Nesbit.
Profile Image for quinnster.
1,641 reviews16 followers
January 18, 2016
When I was a child I read a book from the library. I sat and read in my room from cover to cover and when I got to the end I distinctly remember feeling as if I had just woken up from a dream. I was so engrossed in the story I felt like I had been with the children on their adventures and I was so sad it was over.

But it wasn't. It was only the beginning. I spent the rest of my life like a drug addict searching for that same great high and it has been the best adventure ever. All thanks to Edward Eager and his amazing book.
Profile Image for Jackie "the Librarian".
870 reviews260 followers
November 23, 2011
Five children find a silver medallion, and discover that it grants wishes - but only half-way! Hilarity ensues. My favorite part is when they idly wish the cat could talk. And then, it sort of CAN talk, in kitty fashion. Hee!
This is my favorite book by Eager, with lots of wit and humor. A classic of children's literature, but not in a stuffy way.
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 31 books5,632 followers
February 18, 2013
A delightful old-fashioned adventure. Reminded me of an E. Nesbit book! Both the feel of family drama as well as magic, I'm shocked that I haven't read Edward Eager before now. As a kid I would have been all over this book! As an adult I'm excited to read more!
Profile Image for Kris Sellgren.
1,054 reviews21 followers
July 21, 2019
I loved this growing up. A magic token that gives you half of what you wish for. Four children find all the ways this can go wrong.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
4,249 reviews
November 30, 2022
4.5 STARS What a delight! This was one of my husband's favorite books as a kid yet I somehow never remember reading Eager's books during my own childhood. So, it was special to experience it together for the first time with our kids for a read-aloud. We all really enjoyed it! My nine-year-old was particularly enchanted with it. I think it's held up quite well over the years -- it doesn't feel too old-fashioned, other than the lack of technology and the children being able to roam freely in town. There are a few bits that don't really show well in light of modern sensibilities. The depiction of the mother's job feels a little sexist by today's standards. The chapter with "the Arab" was pretty uncomfortable and I did some on-the-fly editing as I read aloud yet it ultimately ended with the children expressing kindness to him. I was also a little surprised at how violent it was in places (that part where all the knights chop each other up! even if they do get magicked back together) But, on the whole, it's a fun, sweet story of bringing magic into your everyday life and it's written in such an effortlessly charming way. The children all felt real and distinct and even the grown-ups are not the caricatures they might have been in less sensitive or skilled hands. I'm so excited we have several more of Eager's books to look forward to now!

"The four children generally divided all grown-ups into four classes. There were the ones like Miss Bick and Uncle Edwin and Aunt Grace and Mrs. Hudson who--frankly, and cruel as it might be to say it--just weren't good with children at all. There was nothing to be done about these, the four children felt, except be as polite as possible and hope they would go away soon.
"Then there were the ones like Miss Maime King who--when they were with children--they always seemed to want to pretend theywere children, too. This was no doubt kindly meant, but often ended with the four children feeling embarrassed for them.
"Somewhat better were the opposite ones who went around treating children as though they were as grown-up as they were, themselves. This was flattering, but sometimes a strain to live up to. Many of the four children's schoolteachers fell into this class.
"Last and best and rarest of all were the ones who seemed to feel that children were children and grown-ups were grown-ups and that was that, and yet at the same time there wasn't any reason why they couldn't get along perfectly well and naturally together, and even occasionally communicate, without changing that fact."
Profile Image for Bart Everson.
Author 5 books32 followers
June 15, 2020
One of those rare children's books that not only lives up to one's memories from childhood, but actually improves with age. There are a lot of literary allusions that I'm sure I didn't get as a child, and the period details are more intriguing than ever.

This book was written in the 1950s but set in the 1920s, in Toledo, Ohio. Thus, the time depicted is nearly a century ago, in the days of streetcars, sleeping porches, silent movies and Flinch (a card game). It's suffused with a subtle nostalgia that is not so much wistful as matter-of-fact.

It's the tale of a magical summer in the lives of four young children. One might think Edward Eager is ripping off C.S. Lewis, but he's not. He makes no bones about the fact that he's ripping off E. Nesbit, just as Lewis did, only Eager gives credit where it's due, working his lovely tribute right into the fabric of the story.

What I love most about this book is the beginning, in which we find a description of the long summer break, from the perspective of the children.

The summer was a fine thing, particularly when you were at the beginning of it, looking ahead into it. There would be months of beautifully long, empty days, and each other to play with, and the books from the library.

With a book of this vintage, one fears there will be elements of racism and sexism. Indeed, chapter three contains a depiction of a villainous Arab who appears to be a crude stereotype. This set my teeth on edge as I re-read it. But it proves to be a red herring, as the narrative takes a surprise turn. What looked like a racist caricature instead turns into a reflection on cultural appropriation and social justice. That's how I read it, anyhow.

The sexism is a little more problematic. Three of the four protagonists are girls, but it's the boy who seems to know best. The fact that boys have privileges which girls don't is acknowledged, somewhat resentfully, from the girls' point of view, and this could open up an intriguing discussion of male privilege.

Also, the story employs the tried-and-true Disney format of the family which is incomplete without a father. Yet, it's undoubtedly true that things would have been particularly rough for a working mother in that era.

Come to think of it, I'm amazed Disney hasn't made this into a movie. I'm kind of glad though. This is a thoroughly literary book, rife with allusions to other literature and the joy of reading. Though it could easily be made into a movie, this is surely a story that deserves to be read.
Profile Image for Melissa.
Author 29 books355 followers
April 28, 2017
Reading this aloud to Beanie (7 yrs). She adores it, as did her sisters before her. Eager cracks me up: very wry humor and realistic characterizations—in a fantasy where unlikely events are occurring. It's a delicious combination.

Written in the spirit of E. Nesbit's books, this is the tale of four siblings who find a magical charm that grants wishes—sort of. It only grants *half* a wish, which causes all sorts of confusion and misadventure.
Profile Image for Chris.
2,862 reviews204 followers
May 5, 2017
Over the weekend, I read a lovely feature in Rain Taxi on Edward Eager's Magic series, which inspired me to start rereading them in ebook from my local library system. I'm finding ebook to be an excellent format for these, because it means I'll actually look up definitions - and Eager wasn't afraid of flexing his vocabulary.
Profile Image for Marianne.
118 reviews
April 18, 2008
Half Magic is a story about some kids who are having a very boring summer. That changes when they find a strange coin that gives you wishes you ask for. But soon they discover it gives them half only half what they ask for. So they have to ask for two x what they want. A great book to read any day!
Profile Image for Mir.
4,862 reviews5,007 followers
July 15, 2008

If you've ever had a moral pointed at you, you will know that it is not a completely pleasant feeling.
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