Just some personal reflections on Eager's books as I read them growing up, rereading them now, etc. If you have sentiments you would like to share, pay a visit to my forum.
I first read Half Magic when I was around eleven years old, which would have been in 1996. I read the other five books that my library had in quick succession, but I didn't get to read The Time Garden until around 1999. My mother special-ordered it for me from the bookstore. I eventually found copies of the others as well.
While I grew out of most of the books I read as a kid, I never got rid of my copies of Eager's books. Instead, I tried to complete my set. For many years, I had a nice hardback copy of Half Magic that I found at a library book sale and paperbacks of everything else. Half of my paperbacks are the ugly early 90s printings, and the other half are the even uglier current editions.
In the past two years or so, I've managed to track down dust-jacketed copies of the other six books, which look just like the copies I checked out of the library.The Time Garden proved to be impossible to find at a reasonable price. I recently broke down and bought a copy for $20, but even this is cheap compared to what many copies sell for second-hand. There are sellers on sites like Alibris who are asking for $200+.
I have two copies each of six of the seven books, and three copies of Knight's Castle (original hardback, paperback with the original cover art, and the newest edition). I'd like to read Eager's three other children's books next.
It's funny how rediscovering these books (as well as some others) has shaped my writing and career plans. I am currently a creative writing major, and once I graduate this spring, I plan to go to school for library science. :)
As a kid, I would probably have arranged the books in order of preference something like this:
Time Garden appears to be the least favorite critically as well. Though I think the fact that I first read it so long after the others may have contributed to my slight distaste. I still liked it, but it failed to evoke that same old "magical" sense the others had. Or something.
I'm still working on rereading all of the books, but I would rank the ones that I have read as such:
I like Magic or Not? and The Well-Wishers quite a bit as well (yes, unlike lots of you, I actually like them!), but they're such different sorts of books that it seems unfair to the others.
I believe I read Half Magic in all of three sittings. It usually takes me much longer to get through any book, but even on what must be my fifth or sixth read, this book is just a joy to breeze through.
I didn't like Knight's Castle as a kid, but I love it now. Having familiarized myself moreso with much of the source material, I find the book much, much funnier now. As for Magic by the Lake...I find that the second half drags quite a bit. The adventure in which Jane and Katharine become teenagers is still one of my favorite scenes from any of the books, though. I'm also surprised at how much I enjoyed Time Garden, considering my previous reception of the book.
At the moment, I've just finished Magic or Not? and I'm kind of torn. I think I prefer the "real magic" stories, but the characters in the Magic or Not books are a bit rounder and actually talk more like real kids. I'm about halfway through The Well-Wishers, which I like even more. The multiple narrator technique is pulled off fairly well. And I love Gordy, as I identify with him frighteningly well.
My favorite characters as a kid were Jane and Katharine. Now, I think my favorite is Roger, though I also have a soft spot for Martha and Ann. Eliza is probably Eager's best-written character. She's severely flawed, yet still manages to be totally badass.