Author Spotlight: Edward Eager

One of my favorite books, and one of the first fantasy books I ever read, is Edward Eager's The Time Garden. I remember being sick in bed one winter day, looking for something new to read to distract me from my illness. I must have been out of new books from Christmas, because I asked my sister Maureen to lend me something. At the time, Maureen and I had somewhat different tastes in books--she was already a devoted fantasy fan, whereas I tended to prefer more realistic fare. Still, the element of history in The Time Garden intrigued me, and by the time I was finished the book I was longing for more.

Luckily, Edward Eager wrote several books in the same vein as The Time Garden. His first and perhaps most famous book, Half Magic, introduces a family whose magical adventures span two generations. Siblings Jane, Mark, Katharine, and Martha star in Half Magic and Magic by the Lake, while their offspring Roger, Ann, Jack, and Eliza feature in Knight's Castle and The Time Garden. Eager also wrote about another set of characters called Laura, James, Kip, and Lydia in his books Magic or Not? and The Well-Wishers, although the element of magic is more ambiguous in these books as the title of the first suggests. Seven Day Magic, Eager's only fantasy novel not to have at least one sequel, is more like the Half Magic books in tone.

Edward Eager was a fan of E. Nesbit's fantasy books, and his own stories share many similarities with Nesbit's. Knight's Castle in particular draws on many of the same themes as Nesbit's The Magic City, as both books feature children drawn into magical miniature worlds. Still, Eager's works are classics in their own right, and are not any the less enjoyable for having been inspired by another author's writings. For readers who like imaginative fantasy but prefer books about ordinary children in extraordinary circumstances to books about extraordinary heroes and heroines, Eager's books are just the ticket.