|Sparrow Tree Square age recommendation: 8-11
In a literary sense, Half Magic is exactly twice as enchanting as its title implies. But in a literal sense, the book actually does deal with a peculiar sort of magic that works in fractions only.
One day, Jane, Mark, Katharine, and Martha discover a talisman that only a math teacher could love. It grants wishes, but as the children soon discover, not fully. Each wish only comes half-true. For example, if you wish to go someplace, you’ll find yourself halfway between where you are and where you want to be. The children quickly learn to ask for twice as much as they really want, but the magic still manages to “thwart” them, leading to such predicaments as a cat that can almost talk, a baby that half “grows up,” and a girl who half-disappears.
The magic causes things to “happen” to each main character in turn. Even the children’s mother gets caught up in a brief adventure of her own. As a result of some of these happenings, a kindly bookshop owner named Mr. Smith gradually becomes involved in the family’s life. The children soon realize that Mr. Smith is likely to become their stepfather, prompting Jane to draw on the talisman’s fading powers to make one last impetuous wish.
The first of Eager’s four-book “Tales of Magic” series, Half Magic is also cleverly incorporated into the plot of Seven Day Magic, when a different set of protagonists enters the “Tales of Magic” universe via an enchanted library book. All five of Eager’s “magic” books are highly recommended, along with the E. Nesbit books upon which they are based, and to which Eager’s characters frequently pay homage.
Reviewed by Maureen Friel
Also by Edward Eager: