Creator / Edward Eager
Edward McMakin Eager was a playwright, lyricist, and the author of seven children's fantasy books. He started writing for children later in life, when he found that some of the books he remembered fondly from his own childhood didn't hold up as well when he tried to interest his own son in reading. While searching for something for his son to read, he discovered the works of E. Nesbit
and fell in love with them, considering her the greatest writer for children age nine to twelve. It is almost impossible to discuss Eager's books without including Nesbit, as many of his books can almost be considered unofficial companion pieces to Nesbit's, expanding o and playing with ideas Nesbit introduced (most of his books contain both a direct Shout-Out
to Nesbit by name and a reference to one or more of her books, frequently in the form of having the characters themselves cite her as a favorite author). His books are characterized as low fantasy in which ordinary children in contemporary (well, The Roaring Twenties
) American settings discover a magical item that allows them to have a series of (mis)adventures.
His books include:
- Half Magic (1954) and Magic by the Lake (1957) star Jane, Mark, Katharine, and Martha.
- Knight's Castle (1956) and The Time Garden (1958) star Martha's children Roger and Ann and Katharine's children Eliza and Jack.
- Magic or Not? (1959) and The Well-Wishers (1960) star Laura, James, Kip, Gordy, Lydia, Dicky, and Deborah.
- Seven-Day Magic (1962) stars Susan, John, Barnaby, Abbie, and Fredricka. Interestingly, within this book Half Magic appears to be fictional; the characters have read it, and the magic book that allows them to travel into fictional universes takes them to meet one of the minor characters.
Eager's books provide examples of
- Affectionate Parody
- Annoying Younger Sibling: Martha and Deborah sometimes annoy their siblings.
- Army of the Ages: Knight's Castle has a variation: the protagonists, four children, have been shrunk to a tiny size and the world of their toy knight figurines has come alive. They win the day in the end by bringing in one child's collection of toy soldiers, which includes soldiers from several different historical wars
- Author Appeal: Half Magic is set in Eager's childhood home Toledo, Ohio, and Magic or Not? and The Well-Wishers are sit in New Canaan, Connecticut, where he lived as an adult.
- Author Catchphrase
- Big Fancy House: The house they stay at in The Time Garden.
- Britain Is Only London
- Cool Big Sis: Jane.
- Darker and Edgier: While still very much at the idealistic end of the Sliding Scale Of Idealismversus Cynicism, the books Magic or Not? and The Well-Wishers are this relative to the other books. For instance:
- The plots in these two books deal with more serious subject matter, including racism and a mortgage foreclosure, as opposed to the more fantastic adventures of the other books.
- Compare the treatment of emerging teenage hormones in The Time Garden as opposed to The Well-Wishers. Jack turns into a moron whenever a teenaged girl shows up, which is Played for Laughs. James, on the other hand, treats teenage romance more seriously, talking about how it is a sign that he and his friends are growing up.
- Exact Words: Eliza and Ann wish to look at the Queen of England. They don't say which, and end up meeting Elizabeth I and Victoria. Another time they wish to see their mothers, and are thrown into a scene from Magic by the Lake.
- Expy/Generation Xerox: Jane and her niece Eliza, as Katharine points out.
- Fan-Preferred Couple: In-universe, the kids in Knight's Castle ship Ivanhoe/Rebecca and Jo/Laurie.
- Fix Fic: It's evidently not just the kids who have a preference; Knight's Castle has Ivanhoe end up with Rebecca.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: In Knight's Castle, during one quest, Eliza has Ann pair up with Jack and herself pair up with Roger, that way, "each fair lady will have a champion to save her from worse than death, whatever that is." In traditional literature, which the story parodies, "worse than death" was a euphemism for rape.
- House Fey: The Natterjack who is the guardian of the Thyme Garden
- Housewife: Martha and Katharine as adults.
- Incredibly Lame Pun:
- The Magic that takes them back in time in The Time Garden comes from sprigs of Thyme found, guess where?
- The castle only comes to life at night.
- In the Past, Everyone Will Be Famous
- I Was Beaten by a Girl
- Lady of Adventure: Jane as an adult.
- Make a Wish: Most of the books revolve around getting around the rules of wish-granting (In Half-Magic, the charm only grants half a wish; in Magic By The Lake, wishes are only granted by touching the lakewater, etc.).
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Magic or Not? and The Well-Wishers.
- Middle Child Syndrome: Katharine complains that Jane is the eldest, Martha is the baby, and Mark has his own status as the only boy, leaving her stranded in the middle.
- Numerological Motif: The charm in Half-Magic requires the user to wish for twice as much as they want, which gets difficult when you must figure out how to be twice as much as half-visible. The book in Seven-Day Magic lasts seven days. The castle in Knight's Castle comes to life every three nights.
- The One Guy: Mark is the only boy in his household in Half Magic.
- Overnight Age-Up: Jane and Katharine are turned sixteen for a night.
- Parent with New Paramour: Half Magic.
- Pimped-Out Dress: Queen Elizabeth and the Southern belle in the illustrations for The Time Garden.
- Public Domain Character:
- Characters from Arthurian Legend appear in Half Magic, characters from Ivanhoe appear in Knight's Castle, and Jo, Meg, and Laurie appear in The Time Garden.
- Seven-Day Magic does this a lot too; the characters meet a man that they believe will go on to become the Wizard of Oz, and there's a chapter where they find themselves in a scene that's deliberately very similar to Little House on the Prairie.
- Reality-Writing Book: In Seven-Day Magic, the children find a magic book that not only lets them wish themselves into other books, but also records everything that happens to them as it happens. And whenever anyone else picks it up, it appears as whatever book they would most like to read.
- Recursive Canon: The magic book in Seven-Day Magic actually is Seven-Day Magic. It transcribes everything the characters say and do as it happens.
- The Roaring Twenties: Half Magic and Magic by the Lake are set in 1924, though the year doesn't have a lot to do with the plot.
- Shout-Out: The children frequently reference their favorite books, especially in Seven-Day Magic.
- Sneeze of Doom
- Speech-Impaired Animal: Carrie The Cat, who can temporarily half-talk thanks to an ill-advised magical wish.
- Strictly Formula: In all of the books except Magic or Not? and The Well-Wishers. The kids all go on various fantastic adventures, but there is one point in each book where they use the magic to help their parents out with real-world problems.
- Additionally, the above-mentioned books also have a point where at least one of the characters breaks the rules of the magic (or contemplates doing so), resulting in adverse consequences.
- Sweet Polly Oliver: Katharine at the tournament at Camelot.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Eliza and Ann.
- The Tourney: In Knight's Castle.
- Year Inside, Hour Outside