Into my Bookshelf: Magic by the Lake

Welcome back to my bookshelf!

Continuing both with my short shelf and with the lovely books of Edward Eager, today I am talking about Magic by the Lake!

As in my previous posts about the books in this series (here and here), this book is about four children having a magical adventure, alleviating them from boredom and delighting young readers.

Although Knight’s Tale follows the children of the four in Half-Magic and is the second book published, Magic by the Lake returns to the first set of children on a summer holiday. The children spend their summer vacation at a lake, instead of by the sea, and they meet a magical creature. Not a genie in a bottle, but a grouchy talking box-turtle. Like all of the best magical beings, he is not simpering and compliant, but sassy and hard to work with, which makes the adventures all the more interesting.

One of the most delightful moments in this book, as with most good books, is when our heroes get into a spot of trouble and need rescuing. The beautiful thing about magic is that the rescue we see here is seen from the viewpoint of the rescuers in his next book, which will be my next blogpost. For people who appreciate time-travel tales (already ahead of myself!), it’s a really brilliant moment.

Edward Eager had an obvious talent for writing stories about children who used magic in spite of its difficulties and complexities, and this story is another charming example. A wonderful choice for children on their own summer vacation looking for a bit of magic.




Into My Bookshelf: Knight’s Tale

Welcome back to my bookshelf!

Today, we are still on my short shelf, and we’re continuing in the series of children’s books on magic by the wonderful author, Edward Eager.

A note on order here: I’ve shelved and will thus write about this series in order of publication, which puts Knight’s Tale second, published in 1956. I’ve lost the original sleeve the series came in that wrote the order they were meant to be put into the sleeve in, so I don’t remember what order I read them as a child. This is possibly the third one to be read.

I’ll explain more on that note in the next post.

This story, however, is the story of progeny of the original children from Half-Magic. Martha’s children, Roger and Ann, are visiting their Aunt Katherine and her children, Eliza and Jack. As can be the case with cousins who don’t see too much of each other, they have very different personalities and get off to a bit of a rocky start at first.

Magic fixes that, naturally.

As I said before of the series, the rules are totally different. This is more reminiscent of Toy Story, where everything comes alive at night. The children build a city of toy figurines and old boxes, and with a little mythology help from the novel Ivanhoe and a dash of magic, they find themselves inside the city, interacting with the figurines, learning the rules of chivalry and discovering that familiar fantasy dilemma: How to explain to creatures of a different era or place why you’ve suddenly appeared on their turf with strange clothes that are actually your pajamas.

So, as with the other Eager book, Knight’s Tale uses imagination, creativity, and the rules of magic to spice up a less-than-agreeable family holiday. It also bonds the cousins together in a way that only such magical experiences can do, and they find that they have a thing or two in common after all.

By the way, it’s not on my bookshelf, but if you haven’t read Ivanhoe, you really should. It’s a spectacular story and this book is twice as enjoyable after having read it. I know, because as soon as I read Knight’s Tale at the age of nine, I checked Ivanhoe out at the library and devoured it.



Into my Bookshelf: Half-Magic

Welcome back to my bookshelf! We’re continuing on with my short shelf, and we’ve reached a series, which will take up the next seven posts.

My being a very imaginative child, the very small amount of actual children’s literature I read as a child consisted almost exclusively of books I read for school and fantasy books. I’m probably not unique in this, but it did feed an utter fascination with the fantastic that has followed me ever since.

My mother, bless her, bought me a box set of books she had read were excellent for children who read the sort of things I read, and I’m going to highly recommend every single one of them in the next seven posts because they were such a delightful part of my reading experience as a child.

Edward Eager was a writer active in the 50’s and 60’s, and is best known for the series of stories about children encountering the fantastic. The first of these, Half-Magic, was published in 1954, for example.

There are clever twists and rules in each book, every magical encounter a bit different from the rest. It’s like Narnia in some ways. For example, there are seven books with varying experiences of different children. Some of the children come back, some overlap, some are related to each other, but there are always four children: usually two boys, two girls.

In this first book we have Katherine, Martha, Jane, and Mark (note, only one boy in this set), who are experiencing perhaps the worst thing a set of four children can experience: a boring summer. Things get a bit lively when they discover a magical coin.

The catch? It only grants half of your wish. You wish to be on a desert island, you end up in the desert. At one point, unknowingly, their mother uses the coin and wishes she were home, and ends up – to her shock and confusion – halfway home.

Because you never know which half of your wish is going to be granted, there’s no proper way to be sure of what you’re getting, but that’s an important part of the fun! The best thing about this story is that it sets the stage for the further tales and lets you know that in Edward Eager’s world, magic may have rules, but you won’t always know how to wrangle with them. Magic can’t be harnessed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go along for the ride!