When I was growing up, I checked out Half Magic at least a dozen times from the Staunton Public Library. Eventually I ended up with a copy of my own - I think stolen (borrowed?) from my friend Julie. (I still have it, Julie, if you want it back.)
What makes a children's book stand out? A Wrinkle in Time was always in my top ten. When my daughter had to read it for school, I told her how much she would adore it (kiss of death) and she pronounced it "okay." Charlotte's Web and Harriet the Spy are up there, too, but there's a special place in my heart for Half Magic.
Half Magic was written by Edward Eager who wrote plays and children's fiction, including a series of books about children and magic. He was inspired by E. Nesbit who wrote children's fiction at the end of the 19th century and into the beginning of the 20th century. I will write more about her later because if you've never read her, you're in for a treat. Both Edward Eager and E. Nesbit wrote children who feel real, authentic. Children who aren't perfect. Sometimes they behave badly (very badly). Who wouldn't love books like that when they were young?
I don't want to give away too much of the plot. In Half Magic four young siblings find a magic coin that grants wishes - with one problem. It only it grants half a wish. For example, Martha wishes the family cat could talk. But unfortunately, the cat half talks - "Foo! Idgwit! At urt!" And how the children try to fix the problem of the talking cat - let's just say it doesn't go smoothly.
And that's probably what makes Half Magic so special. Normal children leading a normal life and suddenly magic appears. But they can't control it and they fight over the power and it isn't an easy journey for any of them, but the book is exiting and smart and very very funny. There are seven books in Edward Eager's magic series and they're all good, but Half Magic is still the most magical one for me.