No one writes as lovingly about quirky, messy and sometimes heartbreaking families as Hilary McKay, whose Binny, Exiles and Casson Family series are rightfully beloved. Although McKay’s most recent books (a historical novel and a fairy-tale collection) are also special, fans will be pleased to discover that she has returned to her roots with The Time of Green Magic—this time with a little magic added, to boot.
Eleven-year-old Abi is not exactly thrilled that her father is getting married again. Sure, she gains two stepbrothers, 14-year-old Will and 6-year-old Louis. But she also loses a lot of space and privacy, as well as her beloved Granny Grace, who has lived with Abi since her mother died and uses this moment of change as a chance to finally return to her beloved Jamaica.
So when the fledgling family needs to move to a new home and Abi discovers a mysterious, ivy-covered house that seems just perfect for them, she dares to hope that it might be a chance for a new beginning. Almost immediately, though, strange things start to happen. Abi, always a passionate reader, finds herself a little too immersed in the books she picks up. Little Louis starts to get nighttime visits from a furtive feline friend who quickly grows out of control. Meanwhile, Will is discovering a different sort of magic altogether: the bewitching power of first love.
In telling the story of how magic unites these new siblings, McKay’s novel recalls classic gentle fantasies like L.M. Boston’s Green Knowe novels or Edward Eager’s Half Magic. But the world of McKay’s book, with its blended family, globe-trotting mother and subplots about bullying and reluctant readers, also feels rooted in and relevant to the contemporary moment.
Of course, one thing that will never go out of fashion is the love between family members. The Time of Green Magic depicts the tentative formation of a family with tender sweetness and aching authenticity. Readers will be particularly gratified to see how stories and writing bring this new family together, whether via the stories that Abi’s dad tells at bedtime or the letters Granny Grace sends from Jamaica. It’s a joy to spend time with another memorable set of characters from this talented author.