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Half Magic

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Subject: Harcourt (publisher), The Ingoldsby Legends, The Story of the Treasure Seekers
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Half Magic

Edward McMaken Eager (June 20, 1911 – October 23, 1964) was an American lyricist, dramatist, and writer of children's fiction. His children's novels followed Edith Nesbit in featuring the appearance of magic in the lives of ordinary children. Most of the Magic series is contemporary, low fantasy.


Eager was born in and grew up in [5] at the age of fifty-three.

Theatrical works

  • Village Barber, The : "An Operetta" with book and lyrics by Edward Eager. Music by Johann Schenk. Produced by The Columbia Theater Associates of Columbia University at Brander Matthews Hall (NYC – 1942) starring Philip Duey, Wallace House, Edith Campbell, Jan Lindermann, etc. Directed by Milton Smith.[6]
  • Pudding Full of Plums (1943)[7]
  • Sing Out, Sweet Land! (1944), "a salute to American folk and popular music". With Elie Siegmeister, he wrote three new numbers for the show.
  • Dream With Music (1944), a "musical fantasy" in which a soap opera writer dreams that she is [8]
  • Beachcomber Club Revue of 1946, Books & Lyrics by Edward Eager; Music by [9]
  • The Liar, New Musical Comedy, Lyrics by Edward Eager; Music by John Mundy and Edward Eager (1950)[10]
  • The Gambler Book written with [11]
  • To Hell With Orpheus : "Comic Opera" with book and lyrics by Edward Eager (Adapted by [12]
  • NBC's The Adventures of Marco Polo, April 14, 1956
Music: Clay Warnick & Mel Pahl
Lyrics: Edward Eager
Book: Neil Simon
Cast: Alfred Drake, Doretta Morrow
Those who originally led Broadway's Kismet starred in Polo, with the score contrived around themes by Rimsky-Korsakov. The story was lightly suggested by the actual exploits of the guy who opened China to the West. This production did well, and Columbia released an LP of the score.
  • CBS Radio Workshop, May 4, 1956 The Toledo War (An Operatic Parlor Piece) Libretto by Edward Eager, Music by David Brookman (From credits on mp3 recording of episode.)
  • NBC's Holiday, June 9, 1956,
Music: loosely adapted from Johann Strauss
Lyrics: Edward Eager
Cast: Doretta Morrow, Keith Andes, Kitty Carlisle, Bambi Lynn, Tammy Grimes, George S. Irving, Jaques D'Amboise
Loosely organized around Elmer Rice's play The Grand Tour, the story told of a New England schoolteacher who fell for embezzling banker during a trip to Europe. In the end of the musical she uses family monies to cover his misdoings, an odd resolution even by the looser standards of modern ethics.
  • Miranda and the Dark Young Man Music by Elie Siegmeister, Libretto by Edward Eager (1957)[13]
  • Dr. Willy Nilly with [14]
  • Gentlemen, Be Seated! Libretto by Edward Eager, music by [15]
  • NBC Opera Theater, mentioned in various places as ongoing, Lyricist, 1950–1963
  • Call it Virtue based on play by [16]
  • Rugantino lyric translation by Edward Eager (1964)[17]


  • Eager, Edward. The Horn Book Magazine, March 1948, pp. 74 and 104–09.
  • Eager, Edward. "Daily Magic". Horn Book, October 1958, p. 348–58.
Standalone novels
  • Red Head (1951)
  • Mouse Manor (1952), illustrated by Beryl Bailey-Jones
  • Playing Possum (1955), illus. Paul Galdone

Mouse Manor is told from the viewpoint of Miss Myrtilla the mouse, sole occupant of the manor which she has inherited from her mother. She keeps house faithfully, dusting the family portraits and baking a bag pudding for her solitary Christmas dinner.[18]

Magic series

  1. Half Magic (1954)
  2. Knight's Castle (1956)
  3. Magic By the Lake (1957), second in the fictional history
  4. The Time Garden (1958)
  5. Magic Or Not? (1959)
  6. The Well-Wishers (1960)
  7. Seven-Day Magic (1962)

Omnibus edition: Edward Eager's Tales of Magic (2000)

Half Magic

A dull summer is improved when Katharine, Mark, Jane and Martha find a coin-like talisman. The catch is that the talisman only grants half of any wish made upon it—a wish to be on a desert island sends them to the Sahara desert, and their mother ends up halfway home when she wishes to return home during a dull visit to her relatives—which causes considerable confusion until the children learn to circumvent this by doubling their wishes.

Half Magic was a No. 1 seller in America. Anthony Boucher, comparing the novel to Nesbit, described it as "gay and charming, yet rigidly governed fantasy in the Unknown manner."[2]

Magic by the Lake

Here are the further adventures of Martha, Jane, Mark, and Katharine from Half-Magic. Their summer vacation is enlivened by an entire magic lake, channelled through a talking, and somewhat grumpy, box turtle. They are stranded on a desert island, visit Ali-Baba's cave, and end up rescued by some children we will see in the next book.

Half Magic and Magic by the Lake take place in the 1920s, earlier than Eager's other novels.

Knight's Castle

Martha's children, Roger and Ann, and their Aunt Katharine's children, Eliza and Jack, find that the combination of a toy castle, Scott's Ivanhoe, and a little magic can build another wonderful series of adventures. A running theme in Eager's novels is his many references to the novels of E. Nesbit; Knight's Castle pays explicit tribute to Nesbit's [19]

The Time Garden

Eliza, Jack, Roger, and Ann find an herb garden where thyme grows, which lets them travel through time (until the thyme is ripe). On one adventure they rescue their Aunt Jane, Uncle Mark and their mothers from an adventure they took as children. This gives an alternate view of one of the adventures in Magic by the Lake.

Magic or Not?

Laura, James, and their wonderful new neighbors, Kip and Lydia, wish up some summer adventures when the well in their new yard is more than they imagined.

Although all of Eager's other novels for children depict what are clearly adventures in supernatural magic, Magic or Not and its sequel The Well-Wishers are different in tone from his other books, because all of the "magical" events in these two novels are described ambiguously, with clues to permit possible non-supernatural explanations.

The Well-Wishers

The children return to the magic well from Magic or Not for another unpredictable series of adventures which might (or might not) be genuine magic.

Seven-Day Magic

Barnaby, John, Susan, Abbie and Fredericka check out a tattered book from the library for seven days. Oddly, it carefully and correctly records every word they say. Soon they find that it not only records events, but creates new magical adventures.

Among the Magic novels only Seven-Day Magic features children who do not appear in at least one other book. It does refer to Half Magic by name, and has a chapter where the children visit the very end of Half Magic and what might have happened afterwards. It was his last book.

See also


External links

  • Fantastic Fiction Author Page
  • BookRags Biography on Edward McMaken Eager. BookRags. Retrieved December 21, 2005.
  • Edward Eager on retrieved July 12, 2009.
  • Neenah Public Library’s Children’s Classic Literature Newsletter retrieved July 12, 2009.
  • FAS Prizes descriptions
  • Edward Eager Bibliography
  • Edward Eager on Internet Broadway Database retrieved February 14, 2010.
  • Edward Eager biography at Through the Magic Door
  • Daily Magic Edward Eager fan page. retrieved February 14, 2010.
  • Edward Eager at LC Authorities — with catalog 37 records

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