Half Magic, by Edward Eager, was first published in 1954 by Harcourt.
It all begins with a strange coin on a sun-warmed sidewalk. Jane finds the coin, and because she and her siblings are having the worst, most dreadfully boring summer ever, she idly wishes something exciting would happen. And something does: Her wish is granted. Or not quite. Only half of her wish comes true. It turns out the coin grants wishes—but only by half, so that you must wish for twice as much as you want. Wishing for two times some things is a cinch, but other doubled wishes only cause twice as much trouble. What is half of twice a talking cat? Or to be half-again twice not-here? And how do you double your most heartfelt wish, the one you care about so much that it has to be perfect?
My favorite part of this book was Eager fanboying about Edith Nesbit. Really, this entire book is an homage to The Enchanted Castle. That book is even mentioned in detail (and is full of spoilers, unfortunately, so watch out for that)! Although, I did find the magic in this one more entertaining (but much less beautiful than Castle’s), simply because of how complicated it got.
My second favorite part of this book was the trip back to King Arthur’s days and the glorious vocabulary that was spoken. It was also, I think, one of the funnier chapters in the book, partly due to the dialogue and partly due to the shenanigans (one of which is featured on the cover art, which is actually a pretty gruesome scene for a children’s book).
At times, though, the children’s development is a bit too pat and they seem to take astounding leaps in logic at some points, figuring things out with barely any hints at all. The parts of the book where the children are learning a lesson/trying to fix what they did are some of the more tedious parts of the book to get through, but not by very much. Eager does manage to balance it pretty well, and if it ends happily a bit too neatly and conveniently, then it’s the result of the trend of children’s literature written in that time (and actually less moralizing than others).
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Warnings: Some possibly gruesome scenes
Genre: Children’s, Realistic, Fantasy
“I wish that Carrie the cat couldn’t talk any of the time!” said Martha, not stopping to think it out.
“Well, you certainly messed that up,” said Carrie the cat. “Now of course I can’t talk half the time but the rest of the time I can talk perfectly plainly, not that I want to, of course, but here I go, talk, talk, talk, and here I will go for the next thirty seconds, and then thirty seconds of silence I suppose, and then talk, talk, talk again, just as though I had anything to say, which I don’t, being always one for quiet meditation myself; still, duty calls; so speak the words trippingly on the tongue, only three more seconds to go now, the rest is silence, Shakespeare!”
Half Magic is just slightly too “learn your lesson” and “everything turns up golden in the end” but is still a fantastic romp through complicated wishing and the resulting chaos that goes with it. The scene in King Arthur’s time is particularly funny and memorable, and watching the children figure out the magic, leading to some complicated wording, is enjoyable (although they sometimes seem a little too smart).
You can buy this here: Half Magic