Saturday, February 19, 2011

Half Magic Or "We Read Fast Around Here"

Read aloud time for Snowy hangs on a good hook here. By 7.30 he's heading for my bed with a book and his supper and we read till 8.00. At 8.00 the radio goes on so we can listen to The Book Show music and then we either turn it down to finish our chapter, or listen and chat till lights out at 8.30. Half an hour or more of dedicated read-aloud time most nights sees us galloping along  through our book list.

We've just finished Half Magic by Edward Eager. It's a funny, literate tale of  four children in 1920's America who find a magic charm, and of  the mixed up adventures it brings them. The children are intelligent and feisty, they have a mother who reads them E. Nesbit and Twain and their magical travels take them to places like the Court of King Arthur. ( Eager's narcissistic Lancelot is a scream. ) Snowy enjoyed the humour; some slight sentimentality at the end left him less amused.

Half Magic made me reflect on  the richness of assumed knowledge Eager expected of his 1950's readers and the comparative poverty of a Nintendo generation who can discuss Mario at length and be hazy on Arthur and his knights. And like many novels from an earlier time, it holds a mirror up to our low expectations of children's abilities to problem solve and to take care of themselves and others and reflects back to us an unflattering modern portrait.

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