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:
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.
Three very good, detailed biographies of Edward Eager can be found in the following series:
(check the index for volume numbers)
You can check these series for biographies of Bodecker as well. Sorry, I don't know the exact volume numbers at the moment.
Chaston, Joel D. "Polistools
and Torquilstone: Nesbit, Eager, and the Question of Imitation."
Edward. "Daily Magic."
Edward. "A Father's Minority Report."
Claudia. "Writing the Reader: The Literary Child in and Beyond the Book."
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.