Welcome back to my bookshelf! Today we are continuing with both the short shelf and the Edward Eager series of children’s books. I’m really enjoying these particular posts, I have to say.
Magic or Not? is in a slightly different vein from the previous Edward Eager children’s books.
Sure, we face another set of four children who have adventures that are not exactly ordinary (this time two children and their neighbors, instead of having them all be related). We still have shenanigans, as we have come to expect with Edward Eager’s work.
Depending on which time I read it, sometimes I like this and its sequel (my next bookshelf post) better than the others, sometimes less. Typically I prefer the stories that have literary links, like going into Ivanhoe, or meeting the March sisters. But the particular charm of the two here, Magic or Not? and The Well-Wishers is that while the events certainly could be magic, they also could be perfectly conventional things that simply seem like magic.
As a child, I have to say, this was a bit lost on me. The stories seemed comparatively boring (no time travel! no toys coming alive!), and the idea that there was nuance was something I really didn’t have the capacity to appreciate. As an adult, and as a writer, I find these stories to be brilliant. Are they magical?
And maybe is potentially the best word to have a reader say when they finish reading your book. Did Milkman actually spread wings and fly? (I won’t say which Toni Morrison book because that would a spoiler.) MAYBE.
A lot of power exists with ambiguous endings, strings left untied. Johnny hops away and you sort of wonder, What is going to happen when she comes back from quitting work to find him gone? (Mike Leigh, Naked). Does he go back to Manchester?
Or perhaps one of my favorite films, London Boulevard. If I understand that movie, it’s freaking brilliant and nothing is exactly what you think it is at first. If things are actually what they look like, it’s a bit of a disappointing film, so I prefer to think of it as a brilliant, tricky piece of art because it’s so enjoyable that way. And that’s how I want to feel after a film or a book, at any level.
“But what next? What really happened?”
Magic or not?