Biographies: Edward Eager / N.M. Bodecker

About Edward Eager
Biography written by Gina Fusco
The biographical information provided on this page is a product of my own research.  The bulk of this information, including the photo, were not available online prior to my publishing of this page.  It has since come to my attention that this biography has been taken (copied and pasted) without credit for use on other websites and even a book or two.  If you are writing a report or paper on Eager, please check the "more reading" links at the bottom of the page for the original sources of all of this.  The photo of Eager originally appeared in Contemporary Authors (more info below).

Edward McMaken Eager (1911-1964) was born in Toledo, Ohio. He attended Harvard University, but left before completing a degree to pursue a career as a playright. His first play was entitled Pudding Full of Plums. Its success was what prompted him to leave school and move to New York.

For most of his adult life, Eager lived in both New York City and New Canaan, Conneticut. He did the bulk of his writing at his Conneticut home. Half Magic was set in Toledo, while Magic or Not? and The Well Wishers were set in New Canaan.

He married his childhood classmate Jane Eberly (she sat behind him in alphabetical order) in 1938, and they had one son named Fritz in 1942. Eager's first book, Red Head (1951) was a collection of poetry written for his son, who despised having red hair. He then wrote two childrens' books featuring animals as protagonists, entitled Mouse Manor (1952) and Playing Possum (1955). Mouse Manor is said to be inspired by the Beatrix Potter stories and tells the story of two mice who marry and start a hotel. Playing Possum is based on an incident that took place at the Eager family's Conneticut home, when a family of possums was found to be living in a trash can.

It was while Eager searched for books to read to his young son that he discovered the works of British novelist E. Nesbit. Nesbit's influence is clear in his first novel, Half Magic (1954). After all, the book opens with the four children who star in the story reading Nesbit's The Enchanted Castle. Half Magic was a critical success, as was his next book, Knight's Castle (1956). This novel was loosely based on Nesbit's The Magic City interspersed with Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe. It would seem that the success of Eager's books was responsible for the Nesbit books being brought back into print in the late 50s, available in the U.S. for the first time in decades.

Knight's Castle served as an indirect sequel to Half Magic, as the second book stars the children of two of Half Magic's protagonists. Magic by the Lake (1957) follows the further adventures of the Half Magic kids, and The Time Garden features the Knight's Castle characters, but both sequels tell the story of a sort of crossover between the two generations.

Eager's next books, Magic or Not? and The Well-Wishers (1959 and 1960) feature a new cast of characters and strange sets of circumstances that, unlike those in the previous books, may or may not actually be magic at work. But that, of course, is for the reader to decide. His final book, Seven-Day Magic (1962) features yet another group of children and their encounter this time with a magic book.

Eager's books involve groups of four or five, usually well-read, young children who experience extraordinary, magical events not unlike those they read about in books. What's different, though, is that this magic comes with rules that the children must learn. If these rules are broken, this will lead to all sorts of consequences. Still very much set in the real world, Eager refers to the adventures the kids experience as "daily magic."

Possibly the best parts of Eager's novels are his constant referenes to other books he felt that children should read. Not only are such books namedropped in his books, but occasionally his characters even step into the worlds of their favorite stories. E. Nesbit was Eager's biggest influence, but Eager gives props to a multitude of books and authors (see the recommended reading page for more). One reviewer of Half Magic called Eager "far and away the best" of Nesbit's imitators. Another stated, "Seldom has a major author been imitated so blatantly and in many ways so successfully as E. Nesbit by Edward Eager." Said yet another, "It is readily apparent that Eager is not merely an imitator. [...] Perhaps it is for this reason that his works are still read today."

In 1964 , Eager died of lung cancer at age 53. A couple of sources I've read suggest that before he died, Eager was working on an eighth book, in which all eight of the Half Magic/Knight's Castle children embarked on an adventure together, but he died before it was completed and the work was never finished by anybody else. In addition to his works for children, Eager also wrote, adapted, or cowrote several plays, usually as the lyricist. See list below.

Incidentally, Fritz Eager also went on to attend Harvard University, but he actually managed to graduate, which his father took great pride in. Unfortunately, it appears as though Fritz also died, shortly after his dad. His high school holds an art scholarship and exhibition program in his name. Similarly, there exists a scholarship at Harvard for creative writing students named for Edward Eager. See the links page for more information on both. Jane Eager, who apparently set up both programs, has also died, though she lived into the early 2000s.

Complete Works List:

Books:
(illustrated by N.M. Bodecker unless otherwise noted)

Red Head, 1951 (illustrated by Louis Slobodkin)

Mouse Manor, 1952 (illustrated by Beryl Bailey Jones)

Half Magic, 1954

Playing Possum, 1955 (illustrated by Paul Gladone)

Knight's Castle, 1956

Magic by the Lake, 1957.

The Time Garden, 1958.

Magic or Not?, 1959.

The Well-Wishers, 1960.

Seven-Day Magic, 1962

 

Plays (probably an incomplete list--email me with information!):

Two Misers, 1943.

(Lyricist) Dream with Music, 1944.
"a "musical fantasy" in which a soap-opera writer dreams that she is Scheherazade in old Baghdad, where her real life acquaintances turn up as Aladdin, the Sultan, etc." (source)

(Lyricist) Sing out Sweet Land, 1944.
""a salute to American folk and popular music". (source)

(With Alfred Drake) The Liar (based on work by Carlo Goldoni), 1950.

(Lyrics) NBC Opera Theater, various episodes 1950-1963

(With Drake) The Gambler (based on work by Ugo Betti), 1952.

Holiday, 1956
"the story told of a New England schoolteacher who fell for embezzling banker during a trip to Europe. In the end of the musical she uses family monies to cover his misdoings" (source)

(Lyrics) Gentlemen, Be Seated! (1956, prod. 1963):
"Portrait of the Civil War told in the form of a minstrel show. " (source)

(Libretto) Miranda and the Dark Young Man (1957)

(Lyricist) Adventures of Marco Polo: A Musical Fantasy (book by William Friedberg and Neil Simon; music by Clay Warnick and Mel Paul; first produced as a television special, 1956), Samuel French, 1959.

(With Drake) Dr. Willy Nilly, 1959.

Call It Virtue (based on the play The Pleasure of Respectability by Luigi Pirandello), 1963.

(With Drake) Rugantino, 1964.

The Happy Hypocrite, 1968.

Also adapter of numerous operas and operettas for television, including Jacques Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld and Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, both produced by NBC-TV, 1954. Also wrote Pudding Full of Plums, produced in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

 

N. M. Bodecker

Niels Mogens Bodecker (1922-1988) was born in Denmark. He studied, among other things, architecture and commerce in Copenhagen and served in the Danish military before coming to the US in 1952. He married one Mary Ann Weld the same year, and they went on to have three sons before divorcing in 1959.

Bodecker is best known for his artwork, but he also wrote several childrens' books, most famously Miss Jaster's Garden, and translated two collections of Danish nonsense poems into English. He resided in New Hampsire and continued writing and illustrating until he died of colon cancer in 1988.

Works List:

Poetry Collections

Digtervandring (title means "Poets Ramble"), Forum, 1943.
Graa Fugle (title means "Grey Birds"), 1946.

Illustrations

Sigfred Pedersen, Spillebog for Hus, Hjem og Kro (title means "Book of Games for House, Home, and Inn"), 1948
Patric Dennis, Oh! What a Wonderful Wedding, 1953
Roger Eddy, The Bulls and the Bees, 1956
Russell Lynes, Cadwallader: A Diversion, 1959
Mark Caine, The S-Man, 1960
Agnes de Mille, The Book of the Dance, 1963
Charles Dickens, David Copperfield, 1966

Childrens' Books

Miss Jaster's Garden, 1972, reprinted, 2001. (story and art)
It's Raining Said John Twaining (Danish nursery rhymes), 1973. (translation, art)
The Mushroom Center Disaster, 1974.
Let's Marry Said the Cherry, and Other Nonsense Poems, 1974 (poems and art)
Hurry, Hurry, Mary Dear! and Other Nonsense Poems, 1976 (poems and art)
A Person from Britain Whose Head Was the Shape of a Mitten, and Other Limericks, 1980 (poems and art)
The Lost String Quartet, 1981
Quimble Wood, 1981
Pigeon Cubes and Other Verse, 1982
Carrot Holes and Frisbee Trees, 1983
Snowman Sniffles and Other Verse, 1983

Illustrations for Childrens' Books

Edward Eager, Half Magic, 1954
Evan Commager, Cousins, 1956
Edward Eager, Knight's Castle, 1956
Anne Barrett, Songberd's Grove, 1956
Edward Eager, Magic by the Lake, 1957
Evan Commager, Beaux, 1958
Edward Eager, The Time Garden, 1958
Edward Eager, Magic or Not, 1959
Edward Eager, The Well Wishers, 1960
Adeline Hull, Sylvester, the Mouse with the Musical Ear, 1961
Edward Eager, Seven Day Magic, 1962
Miriam Schlein, The Snake in the Carpool, 1963
Doris Adelberg, Lizzie's Twins, 1964
Josephine Gibson, Is There a Mouse in the House?, 1965
Mary Francis Shura, Shoe Full of Shamrock, 1965
Michael Jennings, Mattie Fritts and the Flying Mushroom, 1973
Robert Kraus, Good Night Little One, 1973
Robert Kraus, Good Night Richard Rabbit, 1973
Robert Kraus, Good Night Little A.B.C., 1973
Robert Kraus, The Night-Lite Calendar 1974, 1973
Robert Kraus, The Night-Lite Calendar 1975, 1974
Robert Kraus, The Night-Lite Storybook, 1975
David A. Adler, A Little at a Time, 1976

More Reading!

Three very good, detailed biographies of Edward Eager can be found in the following series:

Contemporary Authors (check the index for volume numbers)
Something About the Author
(volume 17)
Dictionary of Literary Biography
(volume 22)

You can check these series for biographies of Bodecker as well. Sorry, I don't know the exact volume numbers at the moment.

Magazine/Journal Articles:

Chaston, Joel D. "Polistools and Torquilstone: Nesbit, Eager, and the Question of Imitation."
The Lion and the Unicorn: A Critical Journal of Children's Literature 1993 June; 17: p. 73-82
Haven't read this yet, but apparently it deals with Eager's writing style as opposed to Nesbit's, how much of it is homage, how much is imitation, etc.

Eager, Edward. "Daily Magic."
Horn Book, October 1958, p. 348-358
This article was the source of this site's name. If you're looking for a crash course in Nesbit, who better to learn from than Eager himself?

Eager, Edward. "A Father's Minority Report."
Horn Book, March 1948, 74, 104-109.

In this article, Eager details his search in finding good books to read to his six-year-old son, and gives a lengthy list of recommended books.

Nelson, Claudia. "Writing the Reader: The Literary Child in and Beyond the Book."
Children's Literature Association Quarterly Volume 31, Number 3, Fall 2006, p. 222-236
Deals with several examples of childrens' metafiction, including Seven-Day Magic.

You should be able to find all of this either at or through your local/university library.

The photo of Eager and most of the other biographical information here is from the Thomson/Gale Literary Resource Center, which contains information from a couple of the above resources.
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not steal the content of this page. This page in particular is the product of tons of research.

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