The final seventh book of what is now known as the “Tales of Magic” by Edward Eager returns to the plan of the first four, and is just as charming as delightful.
The children in this one are new, from two families. John and Susan are twins, and are the tall blond type that are successful in school, confident in what they can do, and calm in the face of trouble. Their main trouble is their Grannie, who is technically raising them, but in fact is more often treated as the child by John and Susan, as she is likely to get into all kinds of trouble if they don’t keep an eye on her. Grannie was raised to be independent and resourceful too, but sometimes forgets she can’t do everything she once could.
Next door are Barnaby, Abbie and Fredericka. Their father works in New York as a singer and performer, but in the background. With others he sings commercial jingles and backs up stars on variety shows. He also acts when he can, and keeps hoping for a big break to stardom, but meanwhile supports his family well.
As in other Eager books, these children love to read, and the book opens in their local library where they’re discussing favorite books about children having magical adventures and wishing they could have some. As they’re checking out their choices, Fredericka is drawn to a small red book with no visible title, and adds it to her stack. The librarian tells her it’s a seven-day book that must be returned by then. On their way home, Fredericka begins to read the book and finds it’s about them, and everything they’ve said and done in the library and since. Clearly it’s a magic book! The children argue about what they should wish for, but as often happens, Fredericka gets impatient and just makes her wish that they would have a magical adventure starting right away. In a few minutes it does when a dragon appears, grabs Fredericka, and flies off.
One of the best things about this book is that most of the adventures have a literary flavor, tying into other books including The Wizard of Oz, The Little House on the Prairie, and even Half Magic, the first book in Eager’s series, where we find out what happened next to the magic coin from that story. There’s a good dose of humor, and there are also more personal adventures for each family that go deeper than just having fun.
Eager died too young at age 53 two years after this book was published in 1962. His widow reported in one article I found that he had begun an eighth book that would have brought together all eight children from the first four books, and while I would have loved to read that, this one seems to make a good capper for the series, especially as it returns for a time to the events in the first book. It’s a fine story, and stands on its own, but would be improved by reading it after the rest. Highly recommended.