I have been trying to find other Edward Eager read-alikes– books where ordinary children find magic, and struggle to learn its rules and bend the will of the magic to their own, and get into many strange predicaments in the process. In this sort of book, there is no struggle between good and evil, no great epic quest that provides the plot. Instead, there are episodes of magic meeting real life, often leading to chaos that is always eventually resolved.
Until reading her blog this morning, I hadn’t thought to put the distinction into such terms, but she’s dead-on. This isn’t a question of literary versus commercial, old versus new, or high-fantasy versus low.Â This is a question of EPIC VERSUS EPISODIC.
Harry Potter, as much as he follows the Nesbit–> Eager trend of humorous, well-written magic books about “regular” kids who find magic… isn’t the same kind of book. Harry is fighting for his life. He’s fighting for his world.Â He is, in a way, more like Susan Cooper’s protagonists, or maybe L’Engle’s.
And Charlotte is having trouble making a Common Magic (my term) reading list.Â So I wonder if you people can help me help Charlotte. I want to make a list of EPISODIC MAGIC books. Books in which kids encounter magic, and have discreet adventures, and learn from them… but the fate of the universe doesn’t having in the balance.Â We’re looking for books without theÂ BIG JOURNEY…
For my part I can think of lots of older books that sort of fit the bill, in different ways.Â Betty McDonald’s wonderful Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books, and Juster’s Phantom Tollbooth, and others that don’t quite use the format I’m talking about. Milo isn’t really a “regular” kid, and Mrs. Piggle Wiggle doesn’t exactly live in our world.Â But at least neither has an epic sweep.Â Dahl is almost episodic, but he’s sort of in a weird category of his own.
Does Indian in the Cupboard count? Not quite.Â What about There’s the obvious other Eager-homage book, Magic by the Book, which I have very strong opinions about.Â How about Ellen Potter’s amazing Olivia Kidney books. Not quite as episodic, but dang close… and the tone is the same sort of tone.
MARY NORTON! Her Magic Bed Kob was totally such a book, and I loved it as a kid.Â Do people still read that one?
Really, please help us make a list!Â What’s your very favorite episodic magic book for middle graders?