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!