Sep 10, 2015

Magic by the Lake

by Edward Eager

The kids from Half Magic go to a lake for summer vacation. And of course the lake is magic, they find out all about it from a talking turtle. Thus follows a vacation full of adventures. The kids are a little wiser than last time- they know magic doesn't often turn out how you expect, and that there are rules to follow, but they still make errors in judgement and try to bend the rules or control what type of adventures they will have. All kinds of mishap and hilarity ensues. They meet a mermaid, have a run-in with pirates, visit the South Pole, seek buried treasure, get captured by cannibals, hide from Ali Baba's thieves in a cave, and in one curiously different episode, two of the girls unwittingly wish they were sixteen and go off on a midnight boat ride with boys (who of course don't realize they're flirting with some little girls!)

The children are very well-read and sharp on history- they keep thinking of famous stories they want to be a part of, or moments in history they want to visit. I like this, but wonder how much of it modern kids would pick up on? The reference to A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, for example, I only recognized because I read the book just seven years ago- I didn't know it at all when I first read Magic by the Lake as a kid, and surely missed many others.

It's a fun story and the characterization is done really well- these kids act like real children- squabbling and being snooty to each other and wanting excitement and dreading chores and so on. But for some reason I didn't enjoy this book quite as much as the first one. Maybe because some of the attitudes are so dated, the scenes with cannibals and "natives" can be painful to read, for example. On another note, there was one sentence that made me blink, completely taken aback. It mentioned a lovely summerhouse by the lake where one could enjoy watching the sunset and listening to the water and the mosquitoes. I cannot imagine a single person who would find sitting with mosquitoes pleasant!

Rating: 3/5       190 pages, 1957


  1. Hahha, yeah, there are aspects of Magic by the Lake that feel very very Not Great by current standards. It's not my favorite even without that, but that element makes me less likely to reread.

    The kids are SO well-read! I felt completely inadequate when I was a kid! They had all read Ivanhoe, the kids in Knight's Castle (the next one), and when I tried to read it at that age, I was lost for, like, most of it.

  2. Gah, I tried Ivanhoe when I was in highschool and didn't get very far!


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