Half Magic

by Edward Eager


Without any instructions and with unusual consequences, four ordinary siblings work to navigate the magic they unwittingly acquire.

Why I like this for a read aloud book:

*Everyone has dreamed of being able to make wishes that come true
*Matter-of-fact way the children face the challenge
*Adventure that feels as if it could happen to you

Family Fun

After dinner Mr. Smith “proved an adept player of Fan Tan and I Doubt It.” Play Fan Tan and I Doubt It.

Fan Tan

In this card game, a regular deck of cards is used with the King high and the Ace low. The goal of the game is to be the first to get rid of one’s cards.

Shuffle the deck and deal out all the cards. It’s okay if one person has an extra card.

The person to the left of the dealer plays first. If he has a 7 he must place it face up on the table. If he doesn’t, he must pass.

The next player may play a 6 or an 8 of the same suit. From 6, the sequence is 5-4-3-2-A. From 8, the sequence is 9-10-J-Q-K. He may also play 7, starting another suit.
Each player plays one card per turn. A player must play if he has a usable card. If he doesn’t, he passes.

The first player to be out of cards is the winner.

(If you don’t have regular cards, substitute whatever you have. My listener loves using our SpongeBob Square Pants Uno cards. Remember the point is to have fun, not require a trip to the store. Just adapt as necessary!)

I Doubt It

Shuffle a deck of cards and deal them evenly to all the players.

The first player, to the left of the dealer, discards 1 or more cards and says “One (or however many he discards) Ace.”
(This is the second time through the ranks which is why there are cards under the Ace.)

The next player discards one or more Kings. The next players do the same going down the card rank, Queens, Jacks, 10’s, etc.

It is legal to play cards that are not what the player stated. That’s why someone may doubt it!

After each discard, any other player may say, “I doubt it.” The player who discarded, must turn his discarded cards over for all to see.

If any card isn’t the rank he stated, he must take the whole discard pile into his hand. If all the cards are what he stated, the “doubter” must take the whole discard pile into his hand.

The first player to go “out” is the winner.

More Family Fun

On the cover of my book, Katharine is half herself and half knight. Make a Half and Half Picture.

*Find a picture in a magazine. It can be a person or something simple like this gourd:
Cut the picture in half and glue it to a blank piece of paper.

Draw the other half of the picture.
*If you don’t have a magazine or other picture you want to cut in half, you could draw both sides, as on the cover of the book.

Draw a line down the middle of your paper. You might draw half a person on one side of the line, and half a dragon on the other half–or half a monkey and half a giraffe. Use your imagination to create interesting half and half pictures.

 Food Fun

Half magic was tricky for the children. Even though these cookies are half one thing and half another, they won’t be tricky at all! Make Magic in the Middle Cookies.

Chocolate Dough
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. sugar (plus extra for rolling)
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/4 c. smooth peanut butter
1 t. vanilla extract
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk

Peanut Butter Filling
3/4 c. peanut butter, smooth or crunchy
3/4 c. powdered sugar

For the chocolate dough, beat the butter, peanut butter, and sugars together until they are light and fluffy. Beat in the egg/yolk and vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl, mix the peanut butter and powdered sugar.
Form 26 balls that are about 1″ in diameter from the peanut butter dough.
Take a generous tablespoon of chocolate dough, form a rough ball, and flatten it out with your fingers. Put a peanut butter filling ball in the middle and wrap the chocolate dough around it until it is completely covered.
Roll in sugar and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet.
With a flat bottomed glass, smash the cookies from a ball to a 1/2″ thick round.
Bake at 375 degrees F for 7-9 minutes until the cookies look set and the kitchen smells chocolatey. Cool on a rack.
These are magically delicious. Enjoy this half magic!

Field Trip Fun

In the summer, the children could take out ten books instead of three, but they could still only take out four books of fiction. Check out books from the Library.

Challenge your listener to find books in several categories. Fiction is always good, but insist that your listener also selects a nonfiction book, a biography, a book of poetry (you might try Edward Lear or Shel Silverstein), and even a play.

If you aren’t familiar with where to find these books in your library, ask the children’s librarian to give you a tour. Librarians are thrilled to introduce young readers to the treasures available in your local public library.

Reading Reinforcement

*Mark was angry that the nonfiction titles led him to believe they were stories. He thought they were unfair and sly. “Unfairness and slyness the four children hated above all.” What do you dislike above all? Why?

*The children are inspired to wish for things after reading The Enchanted Castle by Edith Nesbit which is still available if you are interested in reading it yourself. Check your local library or buy it here.

*The children were playing pretend games until Martha said the word “pretend” which ruined everything, started a pillow fight which woke up their mother, and then Miss Bick arrived to bark out orders. “All was flotsam and jetsam” according to Katharine. What did she mean? (Flotsam was floating bits of a ship that had sunk. Jetsam was cargo or other things the crew threw off–or jettisoned–to lighten the ship in times of distress.) What is something that is useless to you? Try using flotsam and jetsam in a sentence.

*After the fire the children were very quiet. Their mother knew something was wrong, “but being an understanding parent she didn’t ask questions.” Do you think it would have been better if she asked some questions? Why is it understanding to remain silent? What would you prefer if you were in the children’s situation? Why?

*Why was Jane so unsettled by not knowing how the magic worked? How do you feel in a new classroom where the rules have not been explained and yet consequences are being meted out?

*After the iron lion decides to be iron instead of real, Mark comments “that iron things are happier being iron things. [He] had learned a lot in one day.” What do you think Mark learned?

*The children see a knight chasing a “grimly” giant with “puissant” valor. What do grimly and puissant mean? (Listen to the correct way to pronounce puissant, too. I had the accent on the wrong syllable!)

*Katharine says it looks as if they are in a “tulgey wood.” Read the short poem, “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll to find out what Martha was afraid might come whiffling through the wood. I can see why she might be worried!

*Varlets appeared in the hall during the meal with the knights. What is a varlet?

*The moral received through the adventure with Sir Launcelot left the children feeling unpleasant. “You are grateful for being improved, and you hope you will remember and do better next time, but you do not want to think about it very much just now.” Think of a time you have had a “moral pointed at you.” How did you react? Why is it hard to be corrected?

*Several times the children say Mr. Smith is not a Murdstone. Who is Edward Murdstone and why do the children compare Mr. Smith to him?

*When the children tell Mr. Smith about what happened with Martha, who doesn’t understand why everyone got so excited, he says, “One of the least admirable things about people is the way they are afraid of whatever they don’t understand.” What are some things today that people don’t understand that make them get excited? What is something that makes you afraid because you don’t understand it? How can you overcome the tendency to overreact?

*Jane is uncomfortable when she thinks she belongs to a different family because her words and actions don’t seem consistent with how she feels. “This is called heredity versus environment, and it is quite a struggle.” Do you think a person’s actions are more influenced by her environment or by who she is? Back up your answer.

*Jane is generous to her siblings after her experience. Katharine remarks, “That charm certainly does improve people, once they’ve been through the mill of it.” What experiences have you had that have been challenging that have made you a better person? Do you think all difficult experiences teach wisdom? Why or why not?

*Mother doesn’t want a wish because she says, “We have our happiness.” Would you want a wish? What would you wish for twice? What do you think the consequences of your wish would be?


Find this book at your local library or buy it here.