Half Magic: Tales of Magic, Book 1

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Half Magic: Tales of Magic, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Delightful, charming classic has adventure, humor, heart.

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 6+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Reinforces a love for reading, history, legend, and storytelling. Some discussion of fractions to use the magical charm properly and the idea of nature versus nurture. Raises philosophical questions about influencing history.

Positive Messages

Misfortune and difficulty provide opportunities to grow and improve yourself. Home and family offer forgiveness, comfort, and support, even when things get messy. It's important to try to correct mistakes you've made. Take care to make decisions thoughtfully, with consideration for how you might affect other people.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Wonderful family portrayal: The children squabble but love each other just as fiercely. They are devoted to their hardworking mother, whom they admire as strong, practical, busy, and happy. Their mother's suitor is warm, respectful, and very attuned to the children.

Violence & Scariness

Knights end up beheading each other (the children turn away from the gory scene, and the knights are later restored). A child participates in a jousting tournament. Some unnerving scenarios when a girl half-disappears and is left in a ghostly form, and when several boys are believed missing after they're magically transported. A kidnapper and thieves threaten the children.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that although Half Magic was first published in 1954, it's a timeless classic that feels fresh and funny for modern readers. The children are largely left in the care of a no-nonsense nanny because their mother works long hours and their father died years ago. The family is presented with great affection, including the hardworking, lovable mother and her considerate suitor. There's a bit of cartoonish violence, particularly a scene where three fighting knights simultaneously behead each other. There's also unpleasant stereotyping involving an Arab man who tricks the children and mutilated spoken Chinese, but that scene is resolved with the children becoming empathetic to the man's situation and seeking a respectful, compassionate outcome for him.

User Reviews

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Kid, 12 years old August 22, 2016


I read this book with my mom and brothers and it was so good we read the 2nd one right after. It does have a little bit of racism because of the time it was wri... Continue reading

What's the story?

For siblings Jane, Mark, Katharine, and Martha, summer is fairly dull aside from trips to the library. One day Jane finds an old coin, then irritably wishes for something exciting to happen -- and it does. The children soon realize they possess a magic charm that grants half of what they wish for. Sometimes carefully, and sometimes recklessly, they find themselves transported on adventures both thrilling and terrifying -- in a Middle Eastern desert, among King Arthur's knights, and even in their own neighborhood. Wishes are tricky things, they discover, and even the most thoughtful, generous wish has a way of backfiring horribly. Only by working together as a family can they set things right.

Is it any good?

This magical tale is full of thrilling adventure but it's the well-developed characters -- four siblings, their mom, and a newcomer in their lives -- who hook the hearts of generations of readers. Though Edward Eager fashioned HALF MAGIC in admiration of E. Nesbit, his quick-moving story weaves its own enchantment. He delves into the complicated heart of family relationships with an affectionate twinkle in his eye, exploring familial love and aggravation with a generous sprinkle of fantasy.

The marvelous adventures in the desert sands, jousting with Launcelot, or dealing with an irritated talking cat are delightful on their own, but the story is really about cooperation and compromise, reconciling your dreams with the needs and wishes of those around you, and having the courage and sense to recognize your missteps and try to make things right. Solid lessons for all ages, and delivered in a wonderfully fun story.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the appeal of stories about children and magical adventures. How does this book compare with similar stories you've watched or read?

  • Does this story, first published in 1954, feel dated in any way? Can you relate to these children and their family?

  • Katharine says the charm "certainly does improve people, once they've been through the mill of it." What does she mean by that?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love magic stories

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