Summer Reading: Seven-Day Magic

The best kind of book is a magic book.

Edward Eager is no stranger to reading lists. His best-known book Half Magic pops up on them regularly. (We even recommend it in our elementary school reading list.) But his other books often fall by the wayside, and I think that’s a shame, particularly in the case of Seven-Day Magic.

Like Eager’s other books, Seven-Day Magic features a cast of ordinary kids who happen to be avid readers, and their adventures are informed and shaped by the books they’ve read — and in one case, the books they’ve written. When Susan and John meet their new neighbors Barnaby, Abbie, and Fredericka, they’re introduced to the joys of reading, which have everything to do with exploring the treasures on their library’s shelves and little to do with homework assignments and book reports. (Sound familiar?) On one summer browsing expedition, Susan spots a funny little book on a bottom shelf. It doesn’t take them long to discover that the book is magic, and their literary adventures take them to the early days of Oz (maybe), an adventure on the frontier prairie, and even into an epilogue of sorts to Half Magic (which, in a cheerful postmodern twist, the children in Seven-Day Magic have read and loved). These gleeful references to other children's classics are just plain fun. The children's adventures are fairly tame compared to some modern titles — there are no magic wands, no menacing villains, and no super-powered magical objects — but the children are refreshingly ordinary: smart, well-read, and generally well-adjusted.

Seven-Day Magic isn’t action-packed, and its leisurely pace makes it perfect for a summer readaloud. The book is almost like a series of interconnected short stories, so it’s easy to pick up and put down. And its old-fashioned vibe feels just right today, when the world might be a better place if more of us still half-believed that magic is out there, waiting for its moment.


We’re reprinting some of Amy’s summer reading series favorites from Atlanta Homeschool magazine on the home/school/life blog.

New Books: Alistair Grim’s Odditorium

Alistair Grim's Odditorium
By Gregory Funaro

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to escape a miserable life as a Victorian chimney sweep? Grubb, an orphan who spends his days squeezing and shimmying through soot-coated passageways for his less-than-beneficient benefactor Mr. Smears, stows away in a trunk on an out-of-town coach at the local inn and finds himself in the curious-and-curiouser world of the Odditorium. Grubb finagles a job with the Odditorium’s owner, Alistair Grim, on the condition that Grubb will never reveal any of the magical secrets he learns working in the Odditorium.

And what secrets there are! Talking watches, wailing banshees, fractious fairies, self-propelled samurai armor, and more mysterious entities hide inside the walls of Grim’s London fortress, and just as Grubb’s starting to think he’s getting the hang of the place, the Odditorium gang finds itself in a battle against the nefarious Prince Nightshade and his evil denizens. Grubb has no idea what he’s doing, but he’s going to have to figure it out fast — because he may just be the only thing standing between his friends at the Odditorium and certain doom.

Honestly, sometimes there’s a little too much going on in this book, and the long lists of magical beings can start to feel a little unwieldy. (Alistair Grim's Odditorium is the first in a series of books, and it feels like it.) At the same time, solutions to some of the book’s big mysteries seem obvious far earlier than the characters in the book realize, though with all the running from doom dogs and battling fire-breathing fairies going on, I’ll buy that the main characters just don’t have the mental space for an “aha!” moment. The fast pace and playful tone (part Dickens, part Steampunk, part fantasy) make up for these bumps along the way. This is a good choice for advanced younger readers who want a story with magic and adventure or for middle readers who enjoyed the Percy Jackson series. You may want to do a quick introduction to Victorian London, particularly the life of chimney sweeps and orphans, before reading, but it’s not essential.