Half Magic

by Edward Eager

Other authorsAlice Hoffman (Introduction), N. M. Bodecker (Illustrator)
Paperback, 2016



Local notes

PB Eag




HMH Books for Young Readers (2016), Edition: Reprint, 224 pages


Classic Literature. Fantasy. Juvenile Fiction. Juvenile Literature. 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 it has to be perfe… (more)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

224 p.; 5.13 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member bookworm12
It’s rare to stumble upon a book that makes you wish you were a kid again, just so you could read it for the first time while you were young. That’s exactly how I felt about Half Magic.

In the beginning the story is a simple tale of a magic charm which grants wishes in halves. By the end of the
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book Eager has captured a deeper essence of fear and pain that haunts not only children, but grown-ups as well. Even as adults we can baulk at life when we lose someone we love or must accept new circumstances we don’t enjoy.

The writing reminded me of Roald Dahl, which is the highest compliment I can give. The author portrays the kids so honestly. They were neither angels nor devils, they were just children. At times they were selfish or silly or scared, but all of those emotions rang true.

In one section (ch. 6) Eager describes the four categories that adults fall into when they are around children. It’s a brilliant description that’s both insightful and funny. Eager found that perfect balance of creating a wonderful story, while at the same time slipping in some life lessons.

Here’s a few great lines …

“All of the four children hated Charlie Chaplin, because he was the only thing grown-ups would ever take them to.”

“One of the least admirable things about people is the way they are afraid of whatever they don’t understand.”
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LibraryThing member conuly
Mostly, I love this book. I liked it as a kid (except for that caveat I'll get to in a minute). I like it now, as a grown-up. The story is interesting and engaging. The trouble the kids get themselves into is believable (well, for a fantasy novel...!), and I like their solutions. The problem of
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having to double all your wishes is interesting to me. The only thing is...

The only thing is that a whole chapter is taken up with a trip to a desert, where the children run across an evil, wicked, terrible Arab man. Even the illustration is an ugly caricature. There isn't even a feasible way to avoid this part - it's interwoven in the story in such a way that you can't simply say "Look, this is a part that I feel is inappropriate, we're not reading it today" and skip to the next part.

Now, I know, somebody is going to pop up and say "But you can't judge books from 60 years ago according to OUR standards today!" Fair enough. But I'm not reading this book to a child 50 years ago. I'm reading it (or not, actually - I haven't put it on my to-be-read list yet precisely because of this problem) to children NOW. Even when I was a kid, a mere 30 years after the book's publication, that part made me uncomfortable.

Am I saying you're bad for liking this book? Absolutely not. I like this book! Am I saying you shouldn't read this book to your children, or allow them to read it? Not necessarily. I certainly support you if that is your choice, but that's not what I mean to say. All I'm saying is that you should read this book yourself before you read it with your children (or use it in a classroom, especially if you have Arab students!), and decide for yourself the best way to approach this issue. It may be to find a way to skip that passage, or it may be to not read the book just yet (or at all - there are plenty of good books out there, choosing one always requires NOT-choosing another!) or it may be to discuss this part with your children and explain your views on the subject, or it may be that you think it's not a big deal. (I disagree with the last, but that's your choice.)

Other than that one thing, this is a very good book. It's just that that one thing is SO important. Please pre-read this book.
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LibraryThing member BeckyJG
A classic of kidlit. Summer vacation brings adventures and lessons (which are never tedious or preachy) to bored kids and love to an overworked mom. As good as you remember from your own childhood.
LibraryThing member flaguna
The fluency of the prose is very engaging since the first sentences, bringing altogether the characters at the beginning of the story, defining them with allusions of their personalities that somehow let you know what the author expects from them. At a first glance, I wondered how the author was
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going to incorporate the “magical” touch without progressing towards a fantastic fiction, which I really do not like. However, throughout the first pages and as magic shows up, fantasy gets incorporated in the discourse with grace and subtleness, avoiding fastidious transitions in the diegetical structure of the story. This is a book to be read at once.
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LibraryThing member schmapp
I remember a teacher reading this book to me in class. I picked it back up for another read. It leads you on a journey of twists for the young children making you remember to be careful what you wish for.
LibraryThing member Heather19
A really great, funny, and interesting book!
LibraryThing member klp_86
"...and I wish it twice" A book about a family of brothers and sisters who find a magic coin, but it only has half the magic. It's about their adventures in experimenting that out.
LibraryThing member martyb
Four children find a disc that looks like a nickel, but is really an ancient amulet that grants wishes, but only by half. There are some funny parts in the book. For example, when one of the chidlren inadvertently wishes that the cat could talk. The cat does talk, but only by half, in a strange
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sounding, almost intelligible language. However, feminists will not like the book as it portrays women in a one down position. The children's mom works at a newspaper and has a small office because her job is unimportant (she writes a column about women visiting other women and what they ate for lunch at their gatherings). The mom is "rescued" by marrying the portly Mr. Smith who is able to provide for them so that mom can quit work and stay home with the children. The conceit of the story is clever, but I couldn't get past the stereotypes. The author credits E. Nesbit, an English writer of children's fantasy, whom he apparently emulates stylistically. I couldn't honestly recommend this to a modern day child.
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LibraryThing member js20
when some children pick up a quarter and then wish for a fire they find that a little play house is on fire almost at once. find out what happens to the Children controll have magic...
LibraryThing member troop1646
Fun book! We also listened to it on CD and the kids really liked it.
LibraryThing member Owan
From know on, when you wish, wish for twice as much as you otherwise would --it's half magic! Thoroughly enjoyable in E. Nesbit's style, need re-read.
LibraryThing member lefty33
Four ordinary children find a magical charm and discover that it grants wishes, but only in halves. Through their wishing and consequent adventures, the children realize the importance of helping others, love for each other, and what true happiness is about.

This is a humorous book that I would
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recommend to others. It is written in a writing style similar to that of Eleanor Estes, which suites the book well.
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LibraryThing member tshrum06
This was a good example of fantasy. It begins with four completely ordinary and expected children, but then leaps into a world of the fantastic. It is believable in that there are just four children and at first the adults don't believe them (which seems like the most realistic happening) and then
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something weird happens and then keeps happening. It happens sort of gradually, so the reader is drawn into a believable world.
The setting is pretty relevant to this and the author does a good job of setting it up. As far as where the kids live, it's not really important, but they travel to a desert and to medieval times and an old gray, dreary house. The author uses really descriptive language to express what the children are seeing and doing and when they are in time. It helps keep the reader engaged and there is no confusion as to what the children are doing or where they are doing it.
Age appropriateness- Intermediate, Middle
Media- Pencil
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LibraryThing member LDB2009
This is a fun, fantasy story about four young kids who are granted wishes. Actually, they get half of their wish. They discover the magic a coin possesses but must learn how the wishes work and how to wish for what they actually want. In the meantime, they find themselves in some strange places and
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caught up in some wild adventures. The kids learn what they have is much better than they thought and their lives weren't actually as boring as they thought. The idea is a creative take on the "three wishes" fairy tale plotline and students can be challenged to come up with their own wishes and see how they could be interpreted by the magic charm.
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LibraryThing member Wakana
This book was quite intriguing. The idea of magical powers in the hands of young children was fun. It allows children to experience limitless imagination. This book could be used in the classroom as an outline for students to write their own stories of what they would do if they were given the
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opportunity to make a wish or two. This book addresses, trust, greed, and love. I would also use this book to also address stereotypes and perhaps racism. The first person they meet on a wish is an Arabian man who is trying to kidnap them...
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LibraryThing member sprovost
This is the story of four children who are experiencing a boring summer with nothing to do until they discover a magic coin that takes them on wonderful adventures. This coin is an interesting magic coin, though, in that it only grants wishes in halves, which leads to some very interesting
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adventures. The kids begin to understand the importance of decision making.
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LibraryThing member satyridae
Would you believe I grew up in Toledo, Ohio and never noticed while reading and re-reading this that it was set in my hometown? It's true. I don't know if I just figured ALL books were set there, and that's why the street names were so familiar or if I was just extraordinarily clueless. I figured
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it out finally when I was reading this to my son. It seems worth talking about in view of how worried people sometimes get about kids getting the wrong message from books- sometimes kids don't even notice the town the book is set in, not to worry about the other things!

So, this time through, I was paying more attention. The story is delightful, the kids complex and interesting- but oh, how I love the cat! And Merlin, with his entirely lovely speech, made me cry a little.

To wit:

'"But what about the good deed I wished?" said Katharine. "None of the ones I tried worked out!"

"My child," said Merlin, and his smile was very kind now, "you have done your good deed. You have brought me word that for as far into time as the twentieth century, the memory of Arthur, and of the Round Table, which I helped him to create, will be living yet. And in that far age people will still care for the ideal I began, enough to come back through time and space to try to be of service to it. You have brought me that word, and now I can finish my work in peace, and know that I have done well. And if that's not a good deed, I should like to know what is..."'
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LibraryThing member TeacherLisa
I loved this story growing up. The children find some magic, the trick is that it only does half of whatever you wish for, and it creates all kinds of fun problems for the kids.
LibraryThing member ChristianR
Fun book in the same vein as E. Nesbitt's, but not quite as good. Still, it's well worth reading about the four siblings who find a magic coin that gives them half of what they wish for, so they must remember to wish everything times two. Lots of unintended consequences result from their wishes,
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but ultimately they get their greatest wish of all: a new father for them and husband for their widowed mother.
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LibraryThing member bexaplex
Four siblings embark on an E. Nesbitty adventure of wishes only partially fulfilled. Hilarity and a happy ending ensue.
LibraryThing member john257hopper
Perhaps my second childhood has now begun as I re-read this favourite on my 44th birthday, about four children who find a magic coin that grants their wishes in an odd way. Huge chunks of dialogue and whole scenes had imprinted themselves on my memory. Still enjoyable.
LibraryThing member cindasox
The children find a coin that grants half of their wishes so they learn to take great care as they make a wish. The book is about choices and decisions making. In the end the children get what they really want... a new 'father' to make their mother happy. They then realize that if they have their
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hearts' desires, then no other magic is needed and they seek to give their magic coin away.
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LibraryThing member shillson
Half Magic is about four siblings who are not looking forward to another boring summer. However, when Jane finds what she thinks is a nickel their summer becomes quite eventful. As it turns out the nickel is a magical charm but with a twist. After a few mishaps the children soon figure out that the
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charm only grants half a wish. For example when Mark wishes his friends were back from camp only half of them are back or when Martha wishes the cat could speak, the cat can only partially speak.

The characters in Half Magic are well developed and delightful. The children are typical siblings that get along at times and quarrel at other times. Since the book was first published in 1954 it has an old fashioned feel to it. Even still I think children today will find the characters to be believable and will be able to relate to the siblings.
The story is logical and consistent within the framework Eager has established and for any child and even adults the story is believable. This is a fun book that is sure to get a few chuckles out of any child. A great family read for children of all ages.
Suggested grade level: 3-6.

Suggested grade level: 3-5.
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LibraryThing member llarson09
Genre: Science Fiction

Review: This author tries to create a science fiction novel by having children make a wish off of a special rock and then having them realize that they need to make their wishes twice as much in order for them to come all the way true. I did not feel that this book was exactly
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science fiction, but claims to be. The book was all of the place, which made it hard to follow at times.

Media: Pencil, pen
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LibraryThing member audreydodge
This story is really great. The children in the story find a coin and realize that it grants wishes. When one of the children asks a wish, only half of it comes true. When the children realize this, they find a way to manipulate the wishes so that the entire wishes come true.

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