Because I ended up posting Wendy’s comments on the blog yesterday… she’s our BBT Eager Reader today!Â I love what Wendy has to say about Eager, especially her thoughts on his “borrowing” from Nesbit.Â I, myself, “borrow” a lot and I prefer to be very obvious about it…
I think one of the things I loved best about Edward Eager books was the extreme ordinariness of the children and the world they lived in.Â The kids in Eager books get bored, get disappointed, and have to go Baltimore instead of the Rockies.Â They continually irritate each other and do stupid things.Â But they have MAGIC.Â Any child, reading these books, would have to feel like magic is waiting for them, too, if they wish on the right coins.Â (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rubbed a sprig of thyme and sniffed, half-hoping I’d be sent back in time.)
You also get the feeling that the kids find ordinary things just as exciting and almost magical as the real magic: picnics with individual box lunches, going to a movie, swimming in the ocean, going to the library, and so on.Â That’s how I felt as a kid about those things, and, of course, it’s even more how I feel about my childhood looking back on it as an adult.
The magic is necessary for me, though.Â I’ve only reread Magic or Not? and The Well Wishers a couple of times (versus… I don’t know how many for the others.)Â I just want to whisper to the kids that REAL magic is much better, and they ought to go get some.Â It’s interesting: it seems there’s a large faction that think these two were Eager’s masterpieces, and the rest of us don’t care for them much at all; no one in between.
I’ve also read a review or analysis that claims The Time Garden is widely acknowledged to be Eager’s weakest work.Â I don’t know who widely acknowledged that, but I don’t find it to be true.
As for the Nesbit issue… when I finally got around to reading some Nesbit–I was probably about 12, and it was The Enchanted Castle–I was sort of distressed.Â I knew, of course, that Eager’s books were all Nesbit homage, but I didn’t expect them to be THAT close.Â I thought they would just be sort of in the same style.Â I was sad to acknowledge that Eager wasn’t as creative as I’d thought.Â I enjoyed The Enchanted Castle, but haven’t picked up another Nesbit since then, maybe because I wanted to avoid cognitive dissonance.Â But, scandalous as it is, I do sort of think that Eager’s books have aged better (except for the sexism and racism, of course, but these are what I expect to find in books written at that time).Â The dialogue is snappier and funnier, and the prose is simpler.Â Of course, I should probably READ some more Nesbit before I go around making statements like that–that’s what Eager wanted, after all.
Maybe that can be a summer project.Â I’ve always been glad that he was so very blunt about borrowing from Nesbit–there are other authors who borrow almost as much and don’t acknowledge it.
Yep!Â I’m a big believer in stealing openly.Â Best just to hang the title of “thief” on yourself.Â Fits better that way.Â And this makes me wonder if readers know of other authors who’ve stolen so shamelessly…