REVIEW: Magic or Not? by Edward Eager

REVIEW: Magic or Not? by Edward EagerMagic or Not? (Tales of Magic #5) by Edward Eager
Published: Sandpiper (1959), Paperback, 208pg
Source: Library
Genres: Classic, Fantasy, Fiction, Magical Realism

The magic begins when Laura and her family--brothers James, baby Deborah, and her parents--move to a country house in Connecticut. There is a well in the yard, and Laura is the kind of girl who believes in making wishes.

Her first wish comes true, and this sets off a round of adventures for Laura, James and two neighbors, Kip and Lydia, who mix what seems to be genuine magic with good deeds: saving old Miss Isabella King's house from a mortgage foreclosure, rescuing the "long-lost heir," persuading snobbish Mrs. Witherspoon to support the new school proposal, and discovering the secret of the antique desk. And as for the magic, is it or not? (from Goodreads)

I don’t remember ever reading this book AT ALL before (so it’s probably not the one I was thinking of when I read Half Magic), but now that I’ve read it I’ve realized just how GOOD Edward Eager’s books can be.

Half Magic has got problems, right? Sexism, racism, kinda boring. Magic or Not? has none of those problems. The girls are just as active and fun as the boys, and they’re not obsessed with being mini-wives or whatever. In fact, Lydia, the quirky next-door neighbor, is one of my favorite characters in a children’s book EVER. She’s got layers! She’s a troubled kid but she gets a little character growth and it’s fantastic. The other kids are great, too– I think it helps that they’re a little bit older than the kids in Half Magic were (or at least they ACT older).

My favorite part about Magic or Not? is that you really CAN’T tell if there’s actually any magic in it. Is it a fantasy book, or is it something else? Magical realism, if that’s what it IS, is still an unusual thing to find in modern children’s books. A 1950’s kids book with magical realism elements is unusual, and that just makes me love it more.

If there’s no magic, then it’s just a great book about friendship and kindness and working together to make great changes in the world. If there IS magic, then it’s STILL about all that but with an additional spice. Either way, it’s one of my favorite Edward Eager books. If you read Half Magic and hated it, give him another shot. Read Magic or Not?! It’s a little more layered, a little less offensive, and a lot better written.

Read: May 8-9, 2013

5 thoughts on “REVIEW: Magic or Not? by Edward Eager”

  1. Your criticism of Half Magic makes sadness in my heart. Also I need to reread Magic or Not. I haven’t read it in years because I lost my copy and I haven’t wanted to replace it because I had the perfect copy given to me by my grandmother and I haven’t yet come to terms with losing it.

    1. I feel like there are two kinds of Edward Eager fans: Pro-Half Magic and Anti-Half Magic. Pro-HM people HATE the Well-wisher books. Anti-HM people LOVE them. (Secret third kind: Pro-HM AND pro-WW and they love everything.) So idk? Sorry I made you sad about Half magic, but I REALLY REALLY like the Magic or Not kind of books better~

  2. I haven’t heard of this series before – middle grade isn’t really my thing! – but this one sounds so different from the other middle grade books out there. It sounds like it deals with tougher issues, so that’s what makes me interested. Glad you enjoyed this, and the part about never knowing whether magic was involved or not is even better, too! I love being surprised. Great review, Anastasia. 🙂 Not sure if this book is for me, but it sounds interesting all the same!

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