Illustrated by N.M Bodecker
Odyssey/Harcourt Young Classic, 1999; 191 pages
Originally published 1962
It was then that Susan looked back and saw the book sitting all by itself at one end of the bottom shelf. 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. On a sudden impulse she added it to the pile in her arms.... (p.4)
Many many many MANY years ago, I read Edward Eager's Half-Magic and fell in love with his whimsical brand of magic fiction. And now that I'm all grown up, I still love it and I've been slowly working my way through Eager's list of fantasy novels for young readers. And, of course, the Once Upon a Time Challenge gave me the perfect excuse to finish off another one!
Seven-Day Magic was published in 1962, just two years before Eager's death. It was the last book in the bunch and the only one to feature a group of child protagonists who don't appear in any of the other books. It's a good stand-alone story, perfect for anyone not familiar with the other books -- although I'd really recommend starting at the beginning with Half-Magic (from 1954).
The plot revolves around John and Susan (twins, tall and blonde, and in fifth grade), and their neighbors Barnaby, Abbie and Fredericka, and what happens after they find a very old and very tattered book on one of their Saturday morning visits to the public library. They check the book out and are told it's a seven-day book -- strange, they think, since usually only the newest books have to be returned so quickly. And things get even stranger when they realize that the book is recording every word they say and all their actions from the time they discovered it right up to the moment they opened it. Beyond that, the pages are blank and seem to be just waiting for the children to come up with ideas to fill it full of adventures.
Which of course they do. And when Fredericka starts everything off by asking for an adventure with "wizards and witches and magic things," she's suddenly carried off by a dragon!
Not to worry, though -- the other children write themselves into the story right behind Fredericka and rescue her. But they've learned that wishing can be serious (and dangerous), and must be well planned (one of the most appealing aspects of all Eager's books is the way in which we get to watch the kids figuring out how the magic works). And eventually, they also discover that the book is a little different for each of them "because to each person it was the particular book that person had always longed to find."
This is a charming little book, and if I had read it as a child, I know I would have loved it. It might be a little slow and old-fashioned -- and, well, bookish -- for today's kids. But I'd still recommend it to anyone, old and young alike, who likes a good fantasy tale.