Book Review: Half Magic

HALF MAGIC 3When I made the Best Books list and started on the adventure of reading to children as they grew, I did not realize that so many of the “classics” of children’s chapter books come from the 50s. Even if they weren’t written in the 50s, many of them take place in or around the 50s. It feels disproportionate.

Half Magic was another book that I had no impressions of before procuring it. Then, looking at the cover and reading the cover copy, I thought maybe Chronicles of Narnia and Homer Price. Or at least that’s what I might have thought.

Four siblings–two girls and two boys–find a magical coin which works by wishing… in halves. That certainly livens up their summer, as adventures both domestic and exotic ensue. The far-flung adventures are a bit random, but there is an underlying storyline related to their mother and a mysterious (and kindly) shopkeeper.

HALF MAGIC 2It is endearing, in a way. And I could see some readers and some families enjoying it. Somehow, we didn’t, really. We found the writing to be a tad stiff. And all the characters were introduced at once, leaving us confused on which sibling was which for most of the book. And the story was cute, but could have been more fluid and compelling.

It wasn’t all bad, not at all. If you look at the reviews, people “like it,” “love it,” and call it nostalgia in between two covers. They also cite is as the book that made them love reading, or the book they read over and over as a child. (And they also occasionally point out that the caricature of the Arab man might be problematic today.) Laugh-aloud. A majority of four- and five-star reviews.

There are more books following the adventures of the kids and their kids. It is #1 in the Tales of Magic series. We have found, however, that if a series is known only for its first book, there is little reason to read more than the first book. (More on this when I review A Wrinkle in Time.) Here is the series:

  • Half Magic (1954)
  • Magic by the Lake (1957)
  • Knight’s Castle (1956)
  • The Time Garden (1958)
  • Magic or Not? (1959)
  • The Well-Wishers (1960)
  • Seven-Day Magic (1962)


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