Zilpha Keatley Snyder Jane Yolen - Essay

Jane Yolen

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

A fantasy may be laid in the here-and-now, but in order to soar beyond its everyday setting, it must be written with imagination and better than average prose. [In "Black and Blue Magic"] Zilpha Keatley Snyder succeeds in humorously portraying the ordinary events in the life of Harry Houdini Marco, a 12-year-old with a legacy of magic, because she pays attention to slapstick details. But she fails to lift fumble-footed Harry into the extraordinary, which successful fantasy demands. Her language relies too heavily on the colloquial and lacks any touch of the poetic. A workable fantasy plot—a California boy becomes the owner of magic drops that makes wings grow from his shoulders—is fettered by slangy prose; and events and characters that should surprise become predictable. While Harry soars on magic wings over San Francisco, "Black and Blue Magic" remains earthbound.

Jane Yolen, "For Young Readers: 'Black and Blue Magic'," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1966 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), July 24, 1966, p. 22.

The heterogeneous composition of a university community in California contributes to the subtle (sometimes suspicious, ultimately enriching) relationships among the children [in The Egypt Game], and their Egyptian absorption is all too real. But objections remain: the antique dealer is the stock suspect-turned-sympathetic-sage, and the demented killer is both tangential to the plot and a questionable component in a book for this age…. Because the episode [of April's attack] is handled with restraint, we can only question, not condemn. (p. 201)

"Eight to Eleven-Fiction: 'The Egypt Game'," in Kirkus Service (copyright © 1967 Virginia Kirkus' Service, Inc.), Vol. XXXV, No. 4, February 15, 1967, pp. 200-01.