Edward McMaken Eager

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Edward McMaken Eager

Birthdate: (53)
Death: 1964 (53)
Immediate Family:

Son of Frederick Zina Eager and Caroline Eager

Managed by: Private User
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Immediate Family

About Edward McMaken Eager


Edward McMaken Eager (June 20, 1911 – October 23, 1964) was an American lyricist, playwright, and author of books for children. Eager's works for children were distinctive in their use of the theme of magic making an appearance in the lives of ordinary children - what would now be classed as contemporary fantasy.


Eager was born in and grew up in Toledo, Ohio and attended Harvard University class of 1935. After graduation, he moved to New York City where he lived for 14 years before moving to Connecticut. He married Jane Eberly in 1938 and they had a son Fritz. Eager was a childhood fan of L. Frank Baum's Oz series, and started writing children's books when he could not find stories he wanted to read to his own young son. In his books, Eager often acknowledges his debt to E. Nesbit, whom he thought of as the best children's author of all time. A well-known lyricist and playwright, Eager died on October 23, 1964 in Stamford Connecticut at the age of fifty-three.

Theatrical works

List may be incomplete

Village Barber, The : "An Operetta" with book and lyrics by Edward Eager. Music by Johann Schenk. Produced by The Columbia Theater Associates of Columbia University at Brander Matthews Hall (NYC - 1942) starring Philip Duey, Wallace House, Edith Campbell, Jan Lindermann, etc. Directed by Milton Smith.

Pudding Full of Plums (1943)

Sing Out, Sweet Land! (1944), "a salute to American folk and popular music". With Elie Siegmeister, he wrote three new numbers for the show.

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. Wrote lyrics to music from Schubert, Beethoven, Saint-Saens, Weber, Chopin, Wagner, Haydn and Foster as culled by Clay Warnick. Balanchine choreographed.

Beachcomber Club Revue of 1946, Books & Lyrics by Edward Eager; Music by John Frederick Coots (1946)

The Liar, New Musical Comedy, Lyrics by Edward Eager; Music by John Mundy and Edward Eager (1950)

The Gambler Book written with Alfred Drake (1952)

To Hell With Orpheus : "Comic Opera" with book and lyrics by Edward Eager (Adapted by Ring Lardner). Music by Jacques Offenbach (Adapted by Sylvan Levin). Produced at St. John Terrell's Music Circus (Lambertville, NJ - No date) starring Jo Sullivan (Wife of Frank Loesser), Morley Meredith, Peggy O' Hara, Lulu Bates, etc. Directed by Robert C. Jarvis. Choreographed by Rex Cooper. Songs include: "Vacation", "You Can't Do That in Idlewild", "To Be or Not To Be", "The Story of My Life", "Brunswick, Maine", "The Hades Galop", etc.

NBC's The Adventures of Marco Polo, April 14, 1956 Music: Clay Warnick & Mel Pahl Lyrics: Edward Eager Book: William Friedberg & Neil Simon Cast: Alfred Drake, Doretta Morrow Those who originally led Broadway's Kismet starred in Polo, with the score contrived around themes by Rimsky-Korsakov. The story was lightly suggested by the actual exploits of the guy who opened China to the West. This production did well, and Columbia released an LP of the score.

CBS Radio Workshop, May 4, 1956 The Toledo War (An Operatic Parlor Piece) Libretto by Edward Eager, Music by David Brookman (From credits on mp3 recording of episode.)

NBC's Holiday, June 9, 1956, Music: loosely adapted from Johann Strauss Lyrics: Edward Eager Cast: Doretta Morrow, Keith Andes, Kitty Carlisle, Bambi Lynn, Tammy Grimes, George S. Irving, Jaques D'Amboise Loosely organized around Elmer Rice's play The Grand Tour, 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, an odd resolution even by the looser standards of modern ethics.

Miranda and the Dark Young Man Music by Elie Siegmeister, Libretto by Edward Eager (1957)

Dr. Willy Nilly with Pembroke Davenport (1959)

Gentlemen, Be Seated! Libretto by Edward Eager, music by Jerome Moross (1963?) Produced for New York City Opera, 1963 with Dick Shawn and Alice Ghostley

NBC Opera Theater, mentioned in various places as ongoing, Lyricist, 1950–1963

Call it Virtue based on play by Luigi Pirandello, translated and adapted by Edward Eager. (1963)

Rugantino lyric translation by Edward Eager (1964)


Individual Novels:

Red Head (1951)
Mouse Manor (1952)
Playing Possum (1955)

Magic Series

1.Half Magic (1954)
2.Knight's Castle (1956)
3.Magic By the Lake (1957)
4.The Time Garden (1958)
5.Magic Or Not? (1959)
6.The Well-Wishers (1960)
7.Seven-Day Magic (1962)

Collection of all seven Magic stories:

Edward Eager's Tales of Magic (omnibus) (2000)


Eager, Edward. "Daily Magic." Horn Book, October 1958, p. 348-358 
Eager, Edward. "A Father's Minority Report." Horn Book, March 1948, 74, 104-109. 

Book descriptions

Mouse Manor

Mouse Manor, illustrated by Beryl Bailey-Jones, is told from the viewpoint of Miss Myrtilla the mouse, sole occupant of the manor which she has inherited from her mother. She keeps house faithfully, dusting the family portraits and baking a bag pudding for her solitary Christmas dinner.

Playing Possum

Half Magic

A dull summer is improved when Katharine, Mark, Jane and Martha find a coin-like talisman. The catch is that the talisman only grants half of any wish made upon it—a wish to be on a desert island sends them to the Sahara desert, and their mother ends up halfway home when she wishes to return home during a dull visit to her relatives—which causes considerable confusion until the children learn to circumvent this by doubling their wishes.

Half Magic was the #1 seller in America. Anthony Boucher, comparing the novel to Nesbit, described it as "gay and charming, yet rigidly governed fantasy in the Unknown manner."

Magic by the Lake

Here are the further adventures of Martha, Jane, Mark, and Katharine from Half-Magic. Their summer vacation is enlivened by an entire magic lake, channelled through a talking, and somewhat grumpy, box turtle. They are stranded on a desert island, visit Ali-Baba's cave, and end up rescued by some children we see in the next book.

Half Magic and Magic by the Lake take place in the 1920s, earlier than Eager's other novels.

Knight's Castle

Martha's children, Roger and Ann, and their Aunt Katharine's children, Eliza and Jack, find that the combination of a toy castle, Scott's Ivanhoe, and a little magic can build another wonderful series of adventures. A running theme in Eager's novels is his many references to the novels of E. Nesbit; Knight's Castle pays explicit tribute to Nesbit's The Magic City, and also makes an explicit reference to the cartoons of Charles Addams. (Half Magic includes a reference to a short story by Saki.) Knight's Castle won Ohioana Book Award for Juvenile Literature in 1957.

The Time Garden

Eliza, Jack, Roger, and Ann find an herb garden where thyme grows, which lets them travel through time (until the thyme is ripe). On one adventure they rescue their Aunt Jane, Uncle Mark and their mothers from an adventure they took as children. This gives an alternate view of one of the adventures in Magic by the Lake.

Magic or Not?

Laura, James, and their wonderful new neighbors, Kip and Lydia, wish up some summer adventures when the well in their new yard is more than they imagined.

Although all of Eager's other novels for children depict what are clearly adventures in supernatural magic, Magic or Not and its sequel The Well-Wishers are different in tone from his other books, because all of the "magical" events in these two novels are described ambiguously, with clues to permit possible non-supernatural explanations.

The Well-Wishers

The children return to the magic well from Magic or Not for another unpredictable series of adventures which might (or might not) be genuine magic.

Seven-Day Magic

Barnaby, John, Susan, Abbie and Fredericka check out a tattered book from the library for seven days. Oddly, it carefully and correctly records every word they say. Soon they find that it not only records events, but creates new magical adventures.

Seven-Day Magic is Eager's only stand-alone novel; it is the only one which features children who do not appear in at least one other of his books. It does refer to Half Magic by name, and has a chapter where the children visit the very end of Half Magic and what might have happened afterwards. It was his last book.

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Edward McMaken Eager's Timeline

Age 53