Book Review: Half Magic by Edward Eager

Half Magic – Edward Eager (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016)

This is a sweet, old-fashioned story about four siblings who discover a magic coin. The eldest, Jane, picks it up on the sidewalk one day and quickly discovers it grants wishes. Except that it only grants half the wish. So when Jane wishes for a fire, she gets a small fire, only enough to burn down a playhouse.

Thus follows the short and exciting adventures of Jane, Mark, Katharine and Martha, along with their mother and a man named Mr. Smith. The children travel to the Arabian desert, they meet Merlin at King Arthur’s court, and they cause complete chaos in the town centre. It is, of course, a classic tale of “be careful what you wish for” but it’s also a great story of siblings and portrays them in an honest, funny matter. These are siblings who have all the normal rivalries and conflicts but also care about each other and look after one another, even as they’re fighting over who has to wash the dishes.

Eager writes for children respectfully but with great fun. I had never read this children’s story before but I can see why it is something of a classic. I would recommend it for readers aged 8 to 12.

12 thoughts on “Book Review: Half Magic by Edward Eager”

  1. I’m probably a bit young for it yet, but I’ll put it on my list for when I’m old enough… 😉 Why do I never find things that grant my wishes? Life is so unfair…

    1. The author doesn’t put any effort into how they get the coin either! Jane just picks it up off the sidewalk! You should probably be looking at the ground more…

    1. I love that they feel like real, petty children actually. We’re told it doesn’t really matter that the playhouse burned down because the little girl who it belongs to is spoiled and unpleasant (and her father tells her they’ll build a new one with the insurance money).

  2. I always loved this series. Also its fun as they’re all set in the 20’s so even though it’s fantasy it’s also historical fiction. Have you read anything by Edith Nesbit?

    1. Yes, it has a delightfully old-fashioned taste to it, without feeling overly dated. I’ve never read Nesbit though I got the sense Eager was definitely inspired by her. Which titles do you recommend?

    2. Yes, haha I think he mentions her at least once in each of the books. I would recommend starting with The Enchanted Castle, I think that’s one of her best ones. They’re all set in the late 1800s early 1900s, so it’s less relatable than Eager’s books (the kids are in a boarding school and have a governess). But I think they definitely remind me a lot of the Pevensies.

    3. Thanks for the recommendation! I do love the Pevensies so anything reminiscent of them sounds good to me! We’ve just started reading chapter books with our oldest; I don’t think she’s quite ready for Narnia but I’m so excited for the world of kids books I’ll get to read with her. Half Magic was a book I picked up for my niece so I’ll have to see what she’s read by Nesbit.

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