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Magic by the Lake

Magic by the Lake

4.3 19
by Edward Eager, N. M. Bodecker

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When wishing for magic, it's hard not to wish for too much.
     If Jane, Mark, Katharine, and Martha had stopped to think—oh, if they had only stopped to think!—they would have ordered magic by the pound, or by the day, or even by the halves as they had in Half Magic.
     But no, they


When wishing for magic, it's hard not to wish for too much.
     If Jane, Mark, Katharine, and Martha had stopped to think—oh, if they had only stopped to think!—they would have ordered magic by the pound, or by the day, or even by the halves as they had in Half Magic.
     But no, they asked for magic by the lake—and now they have to deal with a whole lakeful of enchantment!
     Soon the children are awash in magic. They find themselves cavorting with mermaids, outwitting pirates, and—with the help of a cranky old turtle—granting a little magical help to the one person who needs it most.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Cheryl Peterson
"Be careful what you wish for" is an appropriate cliché for this story of four siblings who are vacationing near a lake full of magic. Jane, Mark, Katherine, and Martha spend the summer trying to tame the lake's magic with the help of a cranky old turtle, and find themselves swimming with mermaids and escaping from pirates. The children finally decide to use their magic to help someone close to them. Told with wit and humor, this story is lighter and less thought provoking than Tuck Everlasting, but is based on a similar theme of having too much of a good thing. One note of caution: originally published in 1957, one chapter finds Martha on an island with natives who are cannibals and speak an abbreviated form of English ("smallum, girlum, fattum," etc.) This portrays a negative stereotype that young readers (or parents and teachers) may find offensive. 1999 (orig.
Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
This re-release of a forty-year-old fantasy brings Eager's imaginative time travel tale to a new audience. The magical thyme garden transports two sets of sibling cousins to far away places and real and mythical eras. Escorted by the toadlike Natterjack, the children visit Salem; Elizabethan England; a cannibal island; and the March's home in Concord, Massachusetts. The adventures seem surprisingly fresh and are less politically incorrect than expected, having originated in the fifties. The Bodecker illustrations retain their original charm, and are supplemented with cover art by Quentin Blake. A delightful diversion for adults to revisit with their favorite young reader.
From the Publisher

"The combination of real children and fantasy is convincing and funny."  —Booklist

"The same mélange of realism and fantasy, witty talk and believable characterization that has come to be the hallmark of Mr. Eager’s stories.”  —The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Tales of Magic , #2
Sold by:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Sales rank:
740L (what's this?)
File size:
16 MB
This product may take a few minutes to download.
Age Range:
7 - 10 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Lake

It was Martha who saw the lake first. It was Katharine who noticed the sign on the cottage, and it was Mark who caught the turtle, and it was Jane who made the wish. But it was Martha who saw the lake first. The others didn’t see it until at least ten seconds later. Or, as Katharine put it, at long last when all hope was despaired of, the weary, wayworn wanderers staggered into sight of the briny deep.
     This, while poetic, was not a true picture of the case. They really weren’t so wayworn as all that; the lake was only fifty miles from home. But cars didn’t go so fast thirty years ago as they do today; so they had started that morning, their mother and Martha and Mr. Smith their new stepfather in front, and Jane and Mark and Katharine and the luggage in the tonneau, which is what people called the back seat in those days, and Carrie the cat wandering from shoulder to shoulder and lap to lap as the whim occurred to her.
     At first spirits were high, and the air rang with popular song, for this was going to be the four children’s first country vacation since they could remember. But two hours in a model-T Ford with those you love best and their luggage is enough to try the patience of a saint, and the four children, while bright and often quite agreeable, were not saints. It was toward the end of the second hour that the real crossness set in.
     “That lake,” said Jane, “had better be good when we finally get to it. If ever.”
     “Are you sure we’re on the right road?” said Mark. “That crossroad back there looked better.”
     “I want to get out,” said Martha.
     “You can’t,” said their mother. “Once you start that, all pleasure is doomed.”
     “Then I want to get in back,” said Martha.
     “Don’t let her,” said Katharine. “She’ll wiggle, and it’s bad enough back here already. Sardines would be putting it mildly.”
     “Just cause I’m the youngest, I never get to do anything,” said Martha.
     “That’s right, whine,” said Katharine.
     “Children,” said their mother.
     “I,” said Mr. Smith, “suggest we stop and have lunch.”
     So they did, and it was a town called Angola, which interested Mark because it was named after one of the countries in his stamp album, but it turned out not to be very romantic, just red brick buildings and a drugstore that specialized in hairnets and rubber bathing caps and Allen’s Wild Cherry Extract. Half an hour later, replete with sandwiches and tasting of wild cherry, the four children were on the open road again.
     Only now it was a different road, one that kept changing as it went along.
     First it was loose crushed stone that slithered and banged pleasingly underwheel. Then it gave up all pretense of paving and became just red clay that got narrower and narrower and went up and down hill. There was no room to pass, and they had to back down most of the fourth hill and nearly into a ditch to let a car go by that was heading the other way. This was interestingly perilous, and Katharine and Martha shrieked in delighted terror.
     The people in the other car had luggage with them, and the four children felt sorry for them, going back to cities and sameness when their own vacation was just beginning. But they forgot the people as they faced the fifth hill.
     The fifth hill was higher and steeper than any of the others; as they came toward it the road seemed to go straight up in the air. And halfway up it the car balked, even though Mr. Smith used his lowest gear, and hung straining and groaning and motionless like a live and complaining thing.
     “Children, get out,” said their mother. So they did.
     And relieved of their cloying weight, the car leaped forward and mounted to the brow of the hill, and the four children had to run up the hill after it. That is, Jane and Mark and Katharine did.
     Martha was too little to run up the hill. She walked. And nobody gave her a helping hand or waited for her to catch up, and she felt deserted and disconsolate, and the backs of her knees ached. When she arrived at the top, the others were already in the car and urging her on with impatient cries. But she didn’t get in the car. She threw herself down among the black-eyed Susans at the side of the road to get her breath. She glanced around. Then she jumped up again.
     “Look!” she cried, pointing.
     The others looked. Below them and to one side was the lake. They could see only part of it, because land and trees got in the way, but the water lay blue and cool, and there were cattails and water lilies, and from somewhere in the distance came the put-put of a motorboat.
     Then Jane and Mark and Katharine started to get back out of the car, and they all clamored to go running right down to the lake now, and take their bathing suits and jump into it.
     Mr. Smith had a lenient look in his eye, and their mother must have seen this, for she became firm.
     “All in good time,” she said. “First things first. Wait till we get to the cottage and unpack.”
     So Martha climbed back in the car, not feeling out of breath at all anymore, and they drove on till they came to a gate. Mark jumped out and opened the gate, and closed it after them, and then they drove over a rolling pasture, and there were sheep staring stupidly and a few rams looking baleful, and then another gate, and beyond it a grove of trees, and in the grove was the cottage.
     And of course before there could be any base thought of unloading the car, the four children had to explore every inch of the cottage and the grounds around it, only not going near the water, because their mother’s word was law and they kept to the letter of it. But they could see the lake from every window and between the silver birches that picturesquely screened the front.
     And naturally there was a hammock slung between two of the birches, and better still there was a screened porch with cots on it that ran around three sides of the cottage, and that was where the children would sleep. And there were three little rooms with more cots in them downstairs and another cot in the corner of the living room, for rainy nights, only of course there wouldn’t be many of those.
     There was a big kitchen, and a big room upstairs for their mother and Mr. Smith, and that was all of the cottage.
     “I’m sorry it isn’t any better,” they heard Mr. Smith saying to their mother. “It was the best I could do so late in the season.”
     The four children couldn’t imagine what he meant. So far as they could see, the cottage was all that was ideal.
     Next came a horrid interval of unloading and unpacking, but few would wish to hear about that. Suffice it to say that at last the four children emerged in their new bathing suits, and the lake was waiting.
     Mark and Katharine were the first to emerge from the cottage. As they waited impatiently for the others, Katharine noticed a sign by the front door. It was of rustic letters made from pieces of tree branch, and they hadn’t seen it before because it was the same color as the cottage’s brown shingles. “Magic by the Lake,” it said.
     Katharine looked at Mark, a wild guess in her eyes. “Do you suppose?” For the four children had had experience of magic, or at least a kind of half magic, in the past.
     (After the half magic was over, they wondered if they’d ever have any magic adventures again, and in the book about it it says it was a long time before they knew the answer. And here it was only three weeks later, and already Katharine was ready for more. But if you think three weeks isn’t a long time for four children to be without magic, I can only say that it seemed a long time to them.)
     “Could it be going to start again already?” Katharine went on.
     Mark shook his head. “Nah,” he said. “It’s too soon. We couldn’t be that lucky. That’s just one of those goofy names people give things. You know, like ‘Dreamicot’ and ‘Wishcumtrue.’ Doesn’t mean a thing.”
     And then Jane and Martha appeared, and their mother and Mr. Smith with them, and there was a race for the small private beach that went with the cottage. And the beach proved to be perfection, first pebbles and tiny snail shells, then soft sand and shallow water for Martha and Katharine, and farther on a diving raft for those like Jane and Mark, who had passed their advanced tests at the “Y” and could swim out deep.
     You all know what going swimming is like, and it is even better when it’s your first swim from your own private beach in the first lake you’ve ever stayed at.
     After an hour of bliss, there was the usual rumor among the grown-ups that maybe they’d been in long enough, and after an hour more even the four children were ready to admit there might be more to life than paddle and splash. Just merely lying in the sun on the sand might be even better. So they did that until their mother cried out and said they would catch their deaths. Then reluctantly they went back to the cottage and put on blue jeans (Mark) and old dresses (the three girls) and set out to explore the rest of the grounds.
     They found a nice rustic summerhouse on the high point of the shore that would be useful for sitting in and watching the sunset and listening to the water and the mosquitoes. And down on an inlet, round the corner from the beach, was the boathouse.
     The boathouse, when investigated, proved to contain a flat-bottomed rowboat and a trim red canoe named Lura, after the first name of Mrs. Kutchaw, from whom they’d rented the cottage. The four children had met Mrs. Kutchaw and did not think Lura an appropriate name for her, but the canoe was dandy. Only their mother, when consulted, said they’d better not take the canoe out without a grown-up along, just yet. But the flat-bottomed rowboat they could use, if they were careful.
     “Better stay close to shore,” said Mr. Smith. “There are parts of this lake in the middle where they’ve never found bottom.”
     This impressed the four children very much, and they now had even more respect for the lake than they’d had before. As Mark said, it must be some lake.
     None of them had ever done any rowing at all, and of course they all had to try. But after Martha lost an oar and Mark nearly fell in rescuing it, and Katharine almost shipwrecked them on an unhandy sandbank, it was decided that Jane and Mark should take charge, and the other two lay back in luxury and were passengers.
     “This is keen,” said Mark, after a bit. “I’ve got the crude inkling of it now, just about.”
     “I’ve almost figured out how not to catch crabs already,” said Jane, plying the other oar and belying her words by sending a sizable jet of water all over Katharine.
     But the shore was slipping by them visibly now, and they explored its possibilities with eager eyes. After their own grove of trees came a cottage or two, then more trees, then more cottages closer together, till up ahead the four children saw a little settlement, with a hotel and a dance pavilion and a soft-drink stand and a pier.
     “That must be Cold Springs,” said Jane, for that was the unusual name of the resort on this side of the lake.
     All the cottages had boats, and most of the boats were on the water now, and when Mark saw a large excursion launch called the Willa Mae heading toward them from the hotel pier, he decided traffic conditions were too difficult for beginners and turned the rowboat around.
     So they rowed back along the shore and decided which cottages they liked the looks of, and chose a pink one with curlicues as their favorite, till they came in sight of their own house and beach, already looking familiar and homelike. They rowed round the bend toward the boathouse, but the inlet was so inviting, what with water lilies gleaming whitely, and frogs sitting on lily pads looking bemused, and dragonflies hovering over the water, that Mark and Jane shipped their oars, and the four children drifted gently in the afternoon sun. It was then that Martha saw the turtle swimming past.
     It was Mark who caught it. It was a big turtle, and it looked even bigger as he deftly scooped it up and landed it in the bottom of the boat.
     “Watch out, maybe it’s the snapping kind,” said Jane.
     But the turtle merely gave one look at the four children and withdrew into its shell in scorn.
     “Put it back,” said Katharine, who was of a tender heart. “It’s not happy here.”
     “It will be,” said Mark. “I’ll build it a tank. I’ll catch lots more and train them.”
     But when they had put the boat away and carried the turtle tenderly to the shade of a friendly oak, building a tank right now seemed all too energetic. The four children sat in the shade, lazily eating an occasional gooseberry from a convenient bush, and talked, instead. The turtle still refused to make friends. Its apparently headless, footless shell lay upon the ground nearby.
     “This summer,” said Katharine, “is going to be a thing of beauty and a joy forever.”
     “Not quite,” said Jane. “It’s the middle of July already. Two more months and prison doors will yawn. And I get Miss Martin for seventh grade next year. Help!” And she fell back in a deadly swoon at the thought, and lay pulling up blades of grass and nibbling the juicy white bits off the bottom.
     “Why couldn’t we have found this place way back at the beginning of vacation?” said Katharine.
     “If we had, we wouldn’t have found the half-magic charm and Mother wouldn’t have got married,” said Mark.
     “And there wouldn’t have been any Uncle Huge to rent a cottage for us,” said Martha, for that was the charming name she insisted on calling Mr. Smith, whose given name was Hugo.
     “Maybe there would have,” said Jane. “If I could find a magic charm right on Maplewood Avenue, it stands to reason there must be lots of it lying around still, just waiting for the right person to come along. Meaning me,” she added smugly, and whistled through a blade of grass.
     “Have you noticed the name on the cottage?” Katharine asked.
     Martha and Jane hadn’t. Katharine told them.
     “Pooh,” said Mark. “I told her that doesn’t mean a thing. Just a goofy name.”
     “Maybe it does,” said Katharine. “Maybe it means exactly what it says. Maybe there’s a secret passage in the wall, and a wishing well, and buried treasure in the cellar!”
     “And a dear little fairy in the keyhole,” said Mark scoffingly. “Bushwah!”
     “Magic by the lake,” said Martha, trying out the words to herself. “Doesn’t it sound lovely? Don’t you wish it were true?”
     “I certainly do,” said Jane.
     There was a silence. The turtle stuck its head out of its shell.
     “Now you’ve done it,” it said.

Meet the Author

EDWARD EAGER (1911–1964) worked primarily as a playwright and lyricist. It wasn't until 1951, while searching for books to read to his young son, Fritz, that he began writing children's stories. His classic Tales of Magic series started with the best-selling Half Magic, published in 1954. In each of his books he carefully acknowledges his indebtedness to E. Nesbit, whom he considered the best children's writer of all time—"so that any child who likes my books and doesn't know hers may be led back to the master of us all."

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Magic by the Lake 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Magic by the Lake is a great book. The kids run into all sorts of magical figures,like the turtle. They get themselves into all sorts of messes,and their parents don't have a clue. This book is a great follow up to Half Magic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great! Read today! Magic, adventure,andhumor above all others!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Magic by the lake is a charming piece of literature. I highly reccoment this book. This book will laeve you on the edge of your seat. It has many cliff hanging adventures and you will never be bored with it!!!!!! :) :) ! !
Guest More than 1 year ago
I actually picked this book for my book report and I got an A+ It was one of the most intersting books I have ever read
Guest More than 1 year ago
Magic by the Lake, the sequel to my favorite book Half Magic, is about the new magical adventures of Jane, Mark, Katharine, and Martha going on a summer vacation along a lake with their mother and stepfather. When Jane accidentally wishes for a whole lakeful of magic, they bump into thousands of problems and journeys (for example, they go to the South Pole and go aboard a pirate ship by magic) until they realize that their stepfather is the one that needs magic most. I liked this book because it's so cool how Edward Eager mixes in other classic stories with this fantastic book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book is awesome! I think everyone should read it. It is VERY exciting. It is one of those books you can't put down!! The book also inspires you to read more ( it especially inspires you to read more Edward Eager books!)It is on A LOT of lists of things that are good to read! I didn't like to read ( I even told that to my teacher) but after reading Magic By The Lake I read ALL the time!It is a COOL book...READ IT
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love it .great read good for childern who like story that have magic there will problely like thast
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a fun, fantasy adventure with a lot of humor along the way. Great for all ages.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think that this is an extrordinary book. Very interesting, very funny, and very magical. I wish that something like what happened to them would happen to me someday.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Totally want!!!!!!!!!!! If youve read half magic, youll LOVE the story in here. SO TOTALLY WANT FOR MY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!! IF YOU ARE WILLING PLEASE LEND TO ME!!!!!! I NEED SOMETHING TO DO!!!!!!!!!! PLLLLLLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSSSSEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ILL DO YOUR HOMEWORK!!! ANY GRADE!!!!!!! PLEASE!!!!!!!!! PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!!!!!!!!! PLEASE!!!!! PRETTY PLEASE!!! WITH A CHERRY ON TOP!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you know me well, then you know that I rave about Edward Eager. I know that he is an E. Nesbit imitator, and several of his books borrow heavily from her plots. He did not deny this. But since I have never read a Nesbit story, I am able to judge Eager's books as works by themselves. I can never say enough good things about his stories. It's really too bad he only wrote seven in this series. I wish there were more worthwhile books like these for kids to read instead of the often depressing or slutty youth fiction out there now. "Magic By the Lake" is the third book he wrote in his magic books series, but it is actually a sequel to the first one, "Half Magic". Once again, we are taken to the 1920's where Jane, Mark, Katherine, and Martha experience an encore magic adventure. Often, they enter the worlds of their favorite books. The book being replete with illustrations, one thing I liked to do was flip forward to the next chapter to look at the drawings to get a sneak peek at what their next adventure would hold. Anything and everything crazy happens from encountering pirates, discovering the South Pole, growing up overnight, meeting their future children, and almost being eaten by cannibals! The only 'down' side of the book was the ending. Half the book was spent in the children trying to find a way to save their stepfather's bookshop business, but in the end, the business was not really saved by their efforts. Parents concerned by the 'magic' in these books need not be worried. There are certainly not in the same vain as Harry Potter, wizardry, etc. Rather, they are innocent "fairy tales" where the protagonists get three wishes (or, in this case, a whole lake-ful) and they experience the adventures and consequences from their magic wish. The children must learn to work cooperatively together and how think through how their actions may effect others. They also learn the consequences of wishes made selfishly. This being the third of Eager's books that I've read, I've found that in each of his tales, a certain down-to-earth realistic element does exist alongside the fanastical. In "Magic By the Lake", it is the situation of the children's father possible losing his job (something that can well be identified with in today's world). But lest you get the impression that these books are depressing or "preachy", nothing could be farther from the truth! Basically, it's just a good old-fashioned story that should just be absorbed and enjoyed as just that-- not bogged down by commentaries and annotations. These are kids' books, but I can tell you that as a young adult, I probably enjoy these for all their delightfulness more than I would have when I was younger. I think this comes from the fact that the children are so real. I mean, they think like kids think and act as kids act. I was sorry to come to the end of the story and find that Jane, Mark, Katherine, and Martha do not have another book about them later in the series, but I know that they make a cameo appearance in "The Time Garden". Sorry to go on and on about this (I warned you I rave!). Do not deny yourself the pleasure of reading this series! P.S. - These make great read-aloud books!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book sooooo much it was exciting, cute, and funny. You have to read it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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