by Edward Eager
I thought I was done with Edward Eager, but had missed one that was waiting on library hold for a long time. It just came in a few weeks ago. So this one comes just before The Well-Wishers and of course as I imagined, it explains all the character relations neatly. I did like the dynamic introduced when the kids meet Gordy- a well-meaning but bumbling kind of kid, son of unpleasantly wealthy parents, lonely and not much liked by anybody. The main characters are nice to him because they try to be decent, but there are all kinds of awkward moments when they really wish he wasn\’t there, or try to avoid his company without hurting his feelings, but in the end they find out he isn\’t so bad after all, and appreciate Gordy on his own merits. That was a nice touch.
But I\’m rather getting ahead of myself. The story is that two kids move to the country and there\’s a well in their yard. They think it\’s a wishing well and intend to have magical adventures, along with a few other kids in the neighborhood they meet. The aloof granddaughter of an elderly artistic eccentric, and a friendly boy from across the street as well as Gordy, who shows up later. The magic doesn\’t quite work out at first, and they get the idea that it only works when they\’re using it to help others. So they go about looking for people to do good deeds for. This results in some misunderstandings, as when they find a little boy alone in a shop, decide he\’s lost, take him along looking for home, and get distracted exploring a river in the meantime! It\’s certainly a book written from other times- horse-drawn vehicles are not uncommon, cars are fancy new inventions, some speech patterns are different (I even had to look up a few words) and the children are pretty much left unsupervised. Being encouraged by adults to play in an abandoned mine shaft, and taking an old boat on a river running into rapids and having to climb around a waterfall, does not really seem safe to me! Even when the kids get minor injuries the adults don\’t seem very alarmed…
I liked the story well enough, but was a bit disappointed to find in the end it was all a setup, a kind of elaborate prank by some neighbors at first, which the children themselves built upon and kept the pretense going on their own. Ghosts and long-lost secrets and mysteries to solve are not really my thing. This did not crop up until nearly the last chapter, or it probably would have caused me to abandon the book, simply from disinterest. The rest of it is pretty good, though.
I\’m a bit puzzled now, because I vaguely remember a book I read from my elementary school library, about a boy who found some magic object that turned him into a cat? I was expecting to run into that story among these; I thought it was an Edward Eager book but I suppose not. Oh well.
Rating: 3/5 197 pages, 1959