Waiting for the Magic

Waiting for the Magic

4.5 27
by Patricia MacLachlan

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People may drift apart, but love can hold them together. A touching tale of pets and family told in the “venerable spare and moving style” of Newbery Medalist Patricia MacLachlan, author of Sarah, Plain and Tall (Booklist).

When William’s father leaves, his mother promptly goes out and adds four dogs and a cat to their


People may drift apart, but love can hold them together. A touching tale of pets and family told in the “venerable spare and moving style” of Newbery Medalist Patricia MacLachlan, author of Sarah, Plain and Tall (Booklist).

When William’s father leaves, his mother promptly goes out and adds four dogs and a cat to their lives. William’s sure that nothing can fill the hole left by his father, but the new additions to the family are determined to help. With his sister, Elinor, and his mother, William will learn that “family” can come in all shapes and sizes, because sometimes we find love through magic, and sometimes that magic is all around us.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 3–5—Realism blends seamlessly with fantasy as a boy struggles to trust that his fractured family can become whole once more. When Papa walks out yet again, Mama decides they need a dog and takes fifth-grader William and his four-year-old sister, Elinor, to the animal shelter where they choose not one but four dogs: Bryn, Bitty, Neo, and Grace, and one cat, Lula. The animals fill some of the empty space left by Papa's absence, and first Elinor and then William realize they can hear the dogs talking to one another. But when Mama announces she's pregnant, Papa returns and tries to fit into the new dynamics of the household, taking over the cooking to hilarious effect and setting up a studio in the attic in hopes of overcoming his writer's block. Two loving grandparents, an eccentric friend, and four wise and devoted dogs that can now be heard by Papa, and then by Mama, too, help a now-solid family welcome baby Nicholas—and a new dog—at story's end. The spare prose, in William's authentic voice, conveys pathos and humor; the boy's cautious observations and Papa's earnest explanations are offset by Elinor's droll one-liners and the dogs' succinct comments. Deft characterization adds richness and depth to a deceptively simple narrative, and appealing charcoal pencil illustrations throughout reflect the action. The book's title suggests the wonder of canine speech and becomes the title of the story Papa eventually begins to write. Fans of Joy Cowley's Chicken Feathers (Philomel, 2008) will love this gem.—Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY
From the Publisher
"Newbery Medalist MacLachlan tackles the familiar yet always heart-wrenching subject of parental separation in her venerable spare and moving style.... The characters are individualistic, believable, and likable, and the impulsive acquisition and heartwarming presence of the animals suggest an affecting work of realistic fiction."—Publishers Weekly

"MacLachlan writes with simplicity and limpid clarity, acknowledging strong emotions evoked by the father’s departure and depicting the events that follow with sensitivity and bits of humor."—Booklist

"Newbery Medal-winning author Patricia MacLachlan has written a captivating and charming book with just the right amount of magic, love and family bonding that will delight readers of all ages."—Kidsreads.com

* "The spare prose, in William’s authentic voice, conveys pathos and humor; the boy’s cautious observations and Papa’s earnest explanations are offset by Elinor’s droll one-liners and the dogs’ succinct comments. Deft characterization adds richness and depth to a deceptively simple narrative, and appealing charcoal pencil illustrations throughout reflect the action."—SLJ, starred review

"The combination of a fanciful plot and likable, honest, straightforward characters makes this a solid cross-genre work with lots of appeal. The animal voices add further interest, as the pets observe the emotions of the humans around them, particularly William, before the people are even aware of their own feelings. While this will obviously draw in fans of animal tales, it will also attract fans of realism willing to stretch."—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Product Details

Atheneum Books for Young Readers
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File size:
6 MB
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

IT WAS EARLY ON A SATURDAY summer morning when my mother and father stopped arguing and Papa walked away. He is a teacher of literature at the college, so he could have said words when he left. He didn’t. And this time he didn’t slam the door. He shut it with a small, soft sound that made me jump.

“Click,” said my four-year-old sister, Elinor, looking up from her coloring book. I stared at the door. I could feel my heart thump. And I could feel tears coming.

Later, when I went into my bedroom, I found two notes from Papa—one for me and one for Elinor.

Dear William,

I’ve gone off to do some writing. I will call you. And I’ll be back to see you soon. I’m sorry for this.

I love you,


I read Elinor’s note to her. It was like mine, but he had drawn a picture of Elinor in her long dress.

Elinor took the note but didn’t say anything.

Suddenly Mama was in the doorway. She beckoned to me.

“Let’s go, William,” she said. “Get your sweater, Elinor.”

I stood up and tore my letter into small pieces.

“What’s that?” Mama asked.

“Nothing,” I said. “Go where?”

I followed Mama out to the car.

She strapped Elinor into her car seat.

“We’re going to get a dog,” she said firmly.

I sat next to Mama in the front seat.

“Papa never wanted a dog,” I said.

“That’s true,” said Mama. “Your father is a flawed man. Everyone should have a dog.”

“What is ‘flawed’?” asked Elinor from the backseat.

“It means stupid,” said Mama with feeling.

“Stupid is a bad word,” Elinor announced. She pronounced “word” as wood.

“Yes,” said Mama. “He is a stupid bad wood.”

Elinor had a list of “bad woods,” forbidden by Mama who thought words like “fat” and “stupid” were cruel to call anyone.

Mama began to cry then, very quietly, so that Elinor couldn’t see. I couldn’t say anything. Mama’s crying scared me. All I could do was hate Papa for this. For causing Mama to cry right in front of me.

A driver cut off Mama, and she slammed on the brakes.

“Go to your house, lady!” yelled Elinor at the driver. “Read a book or watch a movie!”

Mama started to laugh, and so did I. Those words coming out of Elinor’s mouth; that face surrounded by messy blond hair. Words that must have been Mama’s at one time.

“What kind of dog are we getting?” I asked.

“Whatever they have,” said Mama.

“Can we get a cat?” asked Elinor from the back.

“Yes,” said Mama.

For a moment I thought about asking for a horse, but I didn’t think Mama’s mood about animals would last that long.

Mama turned into the long driveway at the animal shelter.

As we walked to the front door, Mama took my hand. “I shouldn’t have said that about your father, William,” she said.

“Will he come back?” I asked.

He had gone before and come back happily after a while as if nothing had happened.

“Probably. I’m mad at him, Will. But that doesn’t make him bad.” She paused. “Sometimes your papa doesn’t know what he wants.”

I didn’t answer Mama. He had gone before, but he had never left notes for Elinor and me. Somehow that seemed more final, that note. It was something to be read, saved, or torn up. Maybe Papa felt that leaving a note made going away all right.

Thinking about it would wait for later. In fact, when we went inside I forgot all about my father for just a little while because Mama surprised me more.

The shelter was small, and a woman with spiky hair invited us in. Her name tag said JULIA.

“I’m glad you brought your children. We don’t let families adopt dogs without the children present.”

We walked through a door to a room where the dogs were. She turned to us.

“We have four dogs right now. There is a little description and history of each dog. When you see one you’re interested in, let me know. You can spend time with him or her to see if you’re a fit. I assure you that they are all friendly. Call me when you’re ready.”

The first dog’s name was Bryn.

Mama read about Bryn.

“Bryn’s owner has gone to a nursing home and can’t take the dog with her.”

Bryn was sturdy and brown, with a sharp nose, long velvet ears, and a line of raised hair along her back. She sat up and curled her lip at us, showing her teeth. Friendly?

“Shark,” announced Elinor.

Mama laughed.

“Hello, Bryn,” she said. “You’re a pretty girl.”

Bryn wagged her tail. Her face changed when she heard Mama’s voice.

Bitty, the next dog, was small, with a terrier face and body.

I read out loud to Elinor. “Bitty is high energy. Too much for his family.” And Bitty, as if he had heard me, jumped straight up in the air.

Elinor laughed.

In the next pen there was a greyhound, tall, standing still like a statue. Her name was Grace.

“Grace,” I told Elinor. “She is very shy but friendly. She had a life of racing, but unlike many racing greyhounds, she is gentle with small animals. She needs a home with peaceful people.”

“We are peaceful,” said Elinor.

She put her hand against the pen. Grace looked at her steadily, then walked up close and nosed Elinor’s hand.

“Grace,” said Elinor very softly.

One more dog. Big and woolly, white and gray.

“Neo is very young, even though he is so big. He will get much bigger! He is part Great Pyrenees and—”

Elinor interrupted me.

“He likes children and cats,” she said.

Neo looked at Elinor with large, kind eyes.

“How do you know that? You can’t read,” I said to Elinor.

Elinor just smiled.

Mama had been very quiet all along. She was staring at the dogs, one after the other. Julia came into the room.

“What do you think?” she asked.

Mama took a deep breath.

“Do these dogs get along with each other?” she asked.

“Yes. They play outside every day. I think Bryn is the alpha,” she added.

Mama nodded.

“That means the boss,” I told Elinor.

“Is there one dog that interests you?” asked Julia.

Mama looked at Elinor and me.

I shook my head.

“I like them all,” I said.

Elinor nodded.

“We’ll take them all,” Mama said crisply. Beside me Elinor smiled her knowing four-year-old smile. Of course we’ll take them all!

Julia’s mouth dropped open.

“But that is not done,” she said.

“Then today is a first,” said Mama cheerfully.

She took out her checkbook.

After a moment, the woman opened the doors to the dogs’ crates, and they all milled around us.

Elinor pulled on Mama’s arm. Mama leaned down, and Elinor whispered in her ear.

“Oh, yes,” said Mama. “And we want a cat, too.”

© 2011 Patricia MacLachlan

Meet the Author

Patricia MacLachlan is the author of many well-loved novels and picture books, including Sarah, Plain and Tall, winner of the Newbery Medal; its sequels, Skylark and Caleb’s Story; Edward’s Eyes; The True Gift; Waiting for the Magic; White Fur Flying; and Fly Away. She lives in western Massachusetts.
Amy June Bates has illustrated many books for children, including Waiting for the Music by Patricia MacLachlan, That’s What I’d Do by singer-songwriter Jewel, and The Dog Who Belonged to No One by Amy Hest. She lives in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, with her husband and three children.

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Waiting for the Magic 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books I've read this year! It made me smile broadly and laugh out loud many times over! Of course, I'm a sucker for dog books, but this one is definitely one of my favorites! I'm a children's librarian and will recommend this book in my library for years to come! Highly Recommended!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!! I love it =)
Betsy Allen More than 1 year ago
This book is so well written... my favorite book!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read this over and over again. Why? Because it is an amazing book! This is a book about a boy whos father left. He is now stuck with a sister who believes in magic and a mom who says bad words and worries alot and 4 dogs and 1 cat. How will he bring his new family into a happy family, the way he wants it to be like? Go ahead and buy this book. Cause if ou don't, then you will be sorry! Highly Recommended!
NimueKR More than 1 year ago
Charming, original and thoroughly enjoyable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book in fith grade i liked the part when they get a lot of pets i like the whole book but the ending was cute i think a ll of you should read it!!!!!!!!! Waiting for the magic!!!! : )
Anonymous 8 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The whole book is about a family that gets s lot of pets and their dad is in and out its a wild adventure! Its an easy read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a good book you need to read it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think this book is great for kids i love it sl far im half way thought im reafing it with a paper book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The tittlae was a good tittle for the book but when u get the sample all that is good is three padges of the book it sounds good but i can not relly tell from the sample
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Soooooo good!!!! I love it! 100% great.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Shows a story about moving on
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Highly recommend! This was an EXCELLENT read...not only for youngsters but adults as well!!! I highly recommend the book for those who wonder what happened to the magic in their lives! enjoy!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The stars are for how awesome i an
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Your poop