Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Do You Believe in Magic?

I'm generally not a fan of fantasy or science fiction, but realistic books with just a touch of magic seem to me to be of a different class.  Plus they have none of that dystopian, end-of-the-world, battle-to-survive element which seem to cast such a shadow (in my opinion) over the fantasy and science fiction genre.  These, instead, are pretty realistic, except that, you know, the protagonist can fly, maybe, or travel through time.  A side benefit of the time travel ones is that they also function as historical fiction.  Many play with the idea of meeting one's parents or grandparents as children and changing the future.  (Does anyone else feel a sudden urge to watch Back to the Future?)  Here are some of my favorites.

Black and Blue Magic.  This lovely story of a fatherless boy who is given wings (literally) is really about the power of faith - whether in god or the possibility for goodness in people and in life.  Mistaken for an angel as he flies through the night sky of San Francisco, Harry gives those who have given up on life new hope.  As his neighbor says, "... a little more believing in things would do this world a lot of good.  You take all the believing out of life and it doesn't leave much room to grown in... and... the unbelievable can happen almost anywhere."  What a beautiful, uplifting sentiment.

Half Magic and other books by Edward Eager.  Edward Eager's books all involve time travel as well. In Half Magic, four siblings come into possession of a magic coin, which grants wishes by halves. Until they realize how to wish for double what they want (e.g. "I wish to go back in the distance of home but twice as far...), they end up in some pretty sticky situations.  His other books have similar twists, including times when the protagonists meet their parents as children.  Eager's protagonists go back in time to Camelot, the Revolutionary War, the time of the Underground Railroad, and other exciting times in history and literature, which may either spark an interest in those periods and/or stories, or leave young readers confused.  

The Magic Half.  Miri is a singleton born between two sets of twins... or is she?  When she goes back in time to 1935 and rescues Molly from an abusive cousin, she realizes that "Magic is just a way of setting things right."  A sequel, Magic in the Mix, was recently published.

Seven Stories Up and other books by Laurel Snyder.  Published 6 years after The Magic Half, these two books are eerily similar, right down to the time period that the protagonists go back to, the fact that they both "fix" their families, and the presence of a character named Molly!  When Annie goes back in time to 1937 and meets her grandmother as a child, she gains insight into her grandmother's prickly, unpleasant nature... and changes the future.  Seven Stories Up contains more historical details than The Magic Half and author Laurel Snyder includes a note at the end about the research she did and what things were really like for children in 1937.  Her book, Bigger than a Breadbox, also features magic, but this one is my favorite.

What are your favorite magical - but not scary or dystopian - books?

1 comment:

  1. E. Nesbit! Edward Eager always mentions her, which is how I (and countless others) have found her works. The Five Chldren and It and many others are just lovely - hignly recommend. (Excuse poor punctuation etc, am writing on the go)
    - Chavi