Retro Review: Half Magic by Edward Eager

I admit it. I’m a book nut. When I read one book and enjoy it, I tend to try to read everything else by the author whether a series or single titles. I love being a teacher librarian as I can pass that passion on to hundreds of children yearly.

When I was growing up, I was surrounded by books and additionally storytelling and poetry recited through the years. My parents constantly demonstrated their love of books and shared it with me, I’m quite grateful for that since it compelled me towards my dream job. I loved books with a passion, eating up every single book I could read by Noel Streatfield to Elizabeth Enright to Sydney Taylor to L.M. Montgomery.

Sometimes, I wondered if I missed some terrific fantasy books while I grew up with my personal focus on reading realistic fiction and mysteries. I discovered one wonderful fantasy when I became a teacher that I’m a bit of a fanatic about now: Half Magic by Edward Eager. Reading it the first time, I was immediately captured by children who made a two-mile visit to the library to check out new books. I’ve always enjoyed reading books that have family members adventuring together, normally they were realistic fiction. So when I read Edward Eager’s Half Magic later in life, it threw me back to those childhood days with my favorite book treasures.

Half Magic begins with siblings discussing the possibility of magic and one of the children finding a coin that turns out to be a magical talisman. They don’t realize the powerful magic at first and accidentally set something on fire in addition to having their mother go on an accidental adventure and making their cat partially talk. They discover that the talisman grants wishes, but only half way, so they have to make very careful double wishes. As the story progresses each child is able to use the half magic power for an adventure they want to go on and various issues and problems arise.

What captured me with this fantasy, were the various voices of the four children that still each stand out with individuality and age range. Each of the characters has their magical adventure fitting their interest and need. They learn to appreciate what they have and additionally work together to solve issues when learning how to use the magic correctly.

This book has it all, magic, time travel, math, financial constraints, sibling problems, careful wishing, and children learning how to manage power. What a treasure! I recently listened to the audiobook with my son and fell in love with the book once again. The audiobook brings the story to life. I loved introducing him to a life not heavily steeped in technology but instead filled with family time and adventure. I think this book is approachable for readers Second grade up through adult and highly recommend it as a read aloud. One of my fifth grade teachers had a fantastic time reading it aloud with her class this year. It is one of those books that I would hand to a parent who has an advanced younger reader. I’d partner Edward Eager books with Eva Ibbotson’s work as well if asked to provide more options. I look forward to listening to the sequel: Magic by the Lake soon with my son!


Debbie Alvarez is a teacher librarian presently preparing to move from Oregon to Hong Kong. She blogs over at and loves to share her passion for reading amongst a wonderful mix of other Nerdy Book Club reading adventurers.