Old Favorites: Seven Day Magic

When I went to the library as a kid, I always wanted to find that “special” book.  You know, the one with magic inside?  Not just written magic, but real magic.  Sort of like the instructional wizard manual Nita finds in So You Want to be a Wizard, or the never-ending storybook Bastian finds in The Neverending Story. Or maybe like the library book five average kids find during summer vacation in Edward Eager’s Seven Day Magic.

* * *

A book about magic is just the kind of book that Barnaby and John and Susan and Abbie and Fredericka were looking for on their weekly library trip as well. And…surprise! One day they actually find it.

“It was a red book, smallish but plump, comfortable and shabby. There had once been gilt letters on the back, but these had rubbed away, and Susan couldn’t read the name of what it was. Still, it looked odd enough to be interesting and worn enough to have been enjoyed by countless generations.”

(As an aside, when you’re browsing on library shelves,  just remember that the old, beat-up, shabby library book you found on the shelf is there for a reason. It may look like it should be thrown away, but if it’s still around in such tattered shape…there’s probably a very well-loved, special story inside.)

So (back to the review)  Susan adds the old red book to her pile, quite surprised when Miss Dowitcher, the librarian, tells her it’s a seven-day book…which is rather odd, since it’s usually only the new books which have to be returned to the library in seven days. But Susan takes it anyway, and the kids start walking home, reading the first few pages of their books aloud to each other, which is their usual library routine.

Imagine their surprise when Susan starts reading, and the shabby red books turns out to contain their names and their words! In fact, the whole conversation they’d just had about finding a magical book is the beginning of the first chapter.  When these kids figure out what they have in their hands, they know that it’s time for some magical adventures.  After all, they’ve read the Oz books, and Fairy Tales, and even Half Magic.

But as anyone knows (or anyone who has read other books by Edward Eager knows) magic never works quite the way you expect. Before you can use it, you need to figure out the rules, tame it, and find a way to use it wisely. If you don’t do that, then nothing goes according to plan. 

Can Barnaby and John and Susan and Abbie and Fredericka figure out the rules of the book and use the magic to its fullest extent?  Since it’s Edward Eager, there are references to other kids books, lots of humor and a dash of danger. Most books end happily ever after, but with a seven-day magic book, if these kids mix up their magic, they might get a very different ending…

* * *

Edward Eager was a very popular fantasy author for children, who wrote the seven books in his “Magic” series between 1954 and 1962.  His own favorite fantasy authors were E. Nesbit and L. Frank Baum, and there are many references to their books in his books. Even though he only wrote eleven books for children in total, he is still well-known for the humor and magic in those titles. The Magic titles were some of the first books to have normal kids encountering magic in their real-life world.

I loved all his books, but Seven Day Magic does hold a special spot in my heart. I still want to be the kid who spots that extra-ordinary shabby red book on my library shelves; or maybe now,  just be the librarian who helps some other kids to  find it…


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