The Magic Half

Book review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
The Magic Half Book Poster Image
Clever time-travel mystery about twins has some mild danger.

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Kids say

age 10+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Readers will learn about some Depression-era living conditions, family life with twins, and the concept of time travel.

Positive Messages

Friendship and integrity are important qualities. Appreciate what you have.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Miri is a richly drawn 11-year-old girl who feels frustrated in a family with two sets of twins. She's curious, well-intentioned, and kind but also jealous and annoyed by her brothers and sisters, and she aims to distinguish herself. Notwithstanding her own journey, she shows deep compassion and loyalty. Adults are realistically present, with divided attention. Siblings are familial but complicated. Smaller characters are often portrayed as simplistically nice or mean, though some, on occasion, prove to be more than meets the eye.


The protagonist lives in a verbally abusive home, with a cousin who often threatens violence. It's implied that he may have killed her, and this is left ambiguous. Elsewhere, there are minor spats and squabbles among siblings -- a girl hits her brother with a shovel and gives him a lump on the head; a girl's face is slapped after she breaks a water glass.


Very minor insulting language throughout, such as "stupid" or "ugly" used among siblings, as well as some threatening language toward a child, such as "worthless, stupid girl" and "runt." A teenage boy tells his cousin he'll return with a switch to "take care of her." 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that  The Magic Half by Annie Barrows (Ivy + Bean) is a clever story about time travel. It's a suspenseful, often funny mystery with strong female characters in which an 11-year-old girl is transported to 1935, where she meets a girl her age in what today would be considered a verbally abusive household. There's some implication that the girl could have been murdered, though this is presented more as a fear or an abstract concept. 

User Reviews

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There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

Teen, 14 years old Written byJaguAri November 26, 2020

Good, but really creepy! Not for young children!

My parents read this book to me when I was seven or eight because I loved the Ivy and Bean series. We expected that this book would be an exciting story about m... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bycamster26 July 26, 2018

You Won't Want to Put it Down.

I read this book a few years ago but I remembered that I REALLY liked it - so much, in fact, that I had a hard time putting it down. I read it for about 3 hour... Continue reading

What's the story?

Eleven-year-old Miri is a smart girl who feels a bit lost as the middle child between two sets of twins. But when her family moves into a new Victorian farmhouse, she discovers something she can truly call her own: a magic lens that transports her to her room in 1935, where she meets Molly Gardner, another 11-year-old whose family life is much worse than Miri's. Can Miri find a way to help Molly without altering history for the worse?

Is it any good?

THE MAGIC HALF is a rewarding read with clever turns, well-developed characters, and neatly drawn-out suspense. Readers who enjoy history and problem-solving will enjoy the trips back to the Depression, the hunt for buried stolen treasure, Miri's attempts to piece together the logic of time travel, and the conundrum of thinking about time as both in the present and past. There are some potentially dark themes -- a child who could have been murdered and some verbal abuse that, although not extreme, isn't easy to take -- but there's enough goodwill to render that all palatable for the intended readership. It's a suspenseful, often funny mystery with strong girl characters that takes readers back and forth with a few surprising twists. An added bonus is the potential for some good conversations about what it once meant or now means to be a good kid or a good parent. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Molly's household. How was Molly treated? Would it be OK to treat someone that way today? Why, or why not?

  • Do you know any sets of twins? How about two sets of twins in one family? If you're not a twin, what do you think it would be like to be one?

  • If you could travel in time, when would you visit, and why?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love time-travel and fantasy

Themes & Topics

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