Cover image for Waiting for the magic
Waiting for the magic
Waiting for the magic
Publisher Info:
New York, New York : Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, 2011.
Physical Description:
143 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm.
General Note:
"Newbery Medalist" author.
When Papa goes away for a little while, his family tries to cope with the separation by adopting four dogs and a cat.
Added Author:


Call Number
Material Type
JUV F MACLACHLAN New or Popular Book
JUV F MACLACHLAN New or Popular Book

On Order



People may drift apart
But love can hold them together.
Sometimes we find that love through magic -
Sometimes that magic is all around us.

This is a story about all of these things.

But it's also a story about how
four dogs
and one cat
help one boy
and his sister
save their family.

Author Notes

Patricia MacLachlan was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming on March 3, 1938. She received a B.A. from the University of Connecticut in 1962 and taught English at a junior high school until 1979. She began writing picture books and novels at the age of thirty-five. Her works include The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt, Skylark, Caleb's Story, Grandfather's Dance, Three Names, All the Places to Love, Before You Came, Cat Talk, and Snowflakes Fall. She won the Golden Kite Award for Arthur, for the Very First Time and the 1986 Newbery Medal for Sarah, Plain and Tall.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Newbery Medalist MacLachlan tackles the familiar yet always heart-wrenching subject of parental separation in her venerable spare and moving style. "It was early on a Saturday summer morning when my mother and father stopped arguing and Papa walked away," begins William, a fourth-grader who is quietly shaken and angry at his father's departure. He is astounded when his mother, engulfed by emotion, immediately drives him and his four-year-old sister, Elinor, to the pound, where they bring home all four dogs they find, plus a cat. The characters are individualistic, believable, and likable, and the impulsive acquisition and heartwarming presence of the animals suggest an affecting work of realistic fiction. MacLachlan moves it into fantasy, however, by creating voices-wise ones-for each of the dogs, which Elinor can immediately hear; the others must open themselves to the possibility of magic before they come to hear the dogs, as well. While the talking animals initially feel like a contrivance, they bring an amusing and uplifting tenderness to this story of a family working to trust again-readers facing similar turmoil will wish they had such a source of support. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8-12. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

Shortly after William and Elinor's father walks out on the family, their mother takes them to an animal shelter, where they adopt four dogs and a cat. Early on, four-year-old Elinor can understand what the animals are saying, and after a while, Max (a fifth-grader) can, too. When their father hears that a baby is on the way, he rejoins the family and begins to heal emotionally. Suddenly, the magic of understanding animal speech extends to him and, in the end, to his wife. MacLachlan writes with simplicity and limpid clarity, acknowledging strong emotions evoked by the father's departure and depicting the events that follow with sensitivity and bits of humor. With large type, well-spaced lines, and many appealing charcoal-pencil drawings, the story is fully accessible to young chapter-book readers. The magic of understanding animal speech seems minor compared with the magical idea that adding four dogs, a cat, and a baby will bring an absent father home and heal a broken family, but it's a fantasy that will appeal to many children.--Phelan, Carolyn Copyright 2010 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 3-5-Realism blends seamlessly with fantasy as a boy struggles to trust that his fractured family can become whole once more. When Papa walks out yet again, Mama decides they need a dog and takes fifth-grader William and his four-year-old sister, Elinor, to the animal shelter where they choose not one but four dogs: Bryn, Bitty, Neo, and Grace, and one cat, Lula. The animals fill some of the empty space left by Papa's absence, and first Elinor and then William realize they can hear the dogs talking to one another. But when Mama announces she's pregnant, Papa returns and tries to fit into the new dynamics of the household, taking over the cooking to hilarious effect and setting up a studio in the attic in hopes of overcoming his writer's block. Two loving grandparents, an eccentric friend, and four wise and devoted dogs that can now be heard by Papa, and then by Mama, too, help a now-solid family welcome baby Nicholas-and a new dog-at story's end. The spare prose, in William's authentic voice, conveys pathos and humor; the boy's cautious observations and Papa's earnest explanations are offset by Elinor's droll one-liners and the dogs' succinct comments. Deft characterization adds richness and depth to a deceptively simple narrative, and appealing charcoal pencil illustrations throughout reflect the action. The book's title suggests the wonder of canine speech and becomes the title of the story Papa eventually begins to write. Fans of Joy Cowley's Chicken Feathers (Philomel, 2008) will love this gem.-Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter 1 IT WAS EARLY ON A SATURDAY summer morning when my mother and father stopped arguing and Papa walked away. He is a teacher of literature at the college, so he could have said words when he left. He didn't. And this time he didn't slam the door. He shut it with a small, soft sound that made me jump. "Click," said my four-year-old sister, Elinor, looking up from her coloring book. I stared at the door. I could feel my heart thump. And I could feel tears coming. Later, when I went into my bedroom, I found two notes from Papa--one for me and one for Elinor. Dear William, I've gone off to do some writing. I will call you. And I'll be back to see you soon. I'm sorry for this. I love you, Papa I read Elinor's note to her. It was like mine, but he had drawn a picture of Elinor in her long dress. Elinor took the note but didn't say anything. Suddenly Mama was in the doorway. She beckoned to me. "Let's go, William," she said. "Get your sweater, Elinor." I stood up and tore my letter into small pieces. "What's that?" Mama asked. "Nothing," I said. "Go where?" I followed Mama out to the car. She strapped Elinor into her car seat. "We're going to get a dog," she said firmly. I sat next to Mama in the front seat. "Papa never wanted a dog," I said. "That's true," said Mama. "Your father is a flawed man. Everyone should have a dog." "What is 'flawed'?" asked Elinor from the backseat. "It means stupid," said Mama with feeling. "Stupid is a bad word," Elinor announced. She pronounced "word" as wood . "Yes," said Mama. "He is a stupid bad wood." Elinor had a list of "bad woods," forbidden by Mama who thought words like "fat" and "stupid" were cruel to call anyone. Mama began to cry then, very quietly, so that Elinor couldn't see. I couldn't say anything. Mama's crying scared me. All I could do was hate Papa for this. For causing Mama to cry right in front of me. A driver cut off Mama, and she slammed on the brakes. "Go to your house, lady!" yelled Elinor at the driver. "Read a book or watch a movie!" Mama started to laugh, and so did I. Those words coming out of Elinor's mouth; that face surrounded by messy blond hair. Words that must have been Mama's at one time. "What kind of dog are we getting?" I asked. "Whatever they have," said Mama. "Can we get a cat?" asked Elinor from the back. "Yes," said Mama. For a moment I thought about asking for a horse, but I didn't think Mama's mood about animals would last that long. Mama turned into the long driveway at the animal shelter. As we walked to the front door, Mama took my hand. "I shouldn't have said that about your father, William," she said. "Will he come back?" I asked. He had gone before and come back happily after a while as if nothing had happened. "Probably. I'm mad at him, Will. But that doesn't make him bad." She paused. "Sometimes your papa doesn't know what he wants." I didn't answer Mama. He had gone before, but he had never left notes for Elinor and me. Somehow that seemed more final, that note. It was something to be read, saved, or torn up. Maybe Papa felt that leaving a note made going away all right. Thinking about it would wait for later. In fact, when we went inside I forgot all about my father for just a little while because Mama surprised me more. The shelter was small, and a woman with spiky hair invited us in. Her name tag said JULIA. "I'm glad you brought your children. We don't let families adopt dogs without the children present." We walked through a door to a room where the dogs were. She turned to us. "We have four dogs right now. There is a little description and history of each dog. When you see one you're interested in, let me know. You can spend time with him or her to see if you're a fit. I assure you that they are all friendly. Call me when you're ready." The first dog's name was Bryn. Mama read about Bryn. "Bryn's owner has gone to a nursing home and can't take the dog with her." Bryn was sturdy and brown, with a sharp nose, long velvet ears, and a line of raised hair along her back. She sat up and curled her lip at us, showing her teeth. Friendly? "Shark," announced Elinor. Mama laughed. "Hello, Bryn," she said. "You're a pretty girl." Bryn wagged her tail. Her face changed when she heard Mama's voice. Bitty, the next dog, was small, with a terrier face and body. I read out loud to Elinor. "Bitty is high energy. Too much for his family." And Bitty, as if he had heard me, jumped straight up in the air. Elinor laughed. In the next pen there was a greyhound, tall, standing still like a statue. Her name was Grace. "Grace," I told Elinor. "She is very shy but friendly. She had a life of racing, but unlike many racing greyhounds, she is gentle with small animals. She needs a home with peaceful people." "We are peaceful," said Elinor. She put her hand against the pen. Grace looked at her steadily, then walked up close and nosed Elinor's hand. "Grace," said Elinor very softly. One more dog. Big and woolly, white and gray. "Neo is very young, even though he is so big. He will get much bigger! He is part Great Pyrenees and--" Elinor interrupted me. "He likes children and cats," she said. Neo looked at Elinor with large, kind eyes. "How do you know that? You can't read," I said to Elinor. Elinor just smiled. Mama had been very quiet all along. She was staring at the dogs, one after the other. Julia came into the room. "What do you think?" she asked. Mama took a deep breath. "Do these dogs get along with each other?" she asked. "Yes. They play outside every day. I think Bryn is the alpha," she added. Mama nodded. "That means the boss," I told Elinor. "Is there one dog that interests you?" asked Julia. Mama looked at Elinor and me. I shook my head. "I like them all," I said. Elinor nodded. "We'll take them all," Mama said crisply. Beside me Elinor smiled her knowing four-year-old smile. Of course we'll take them all! Julia's mouth dropped open. "But that is not done," she said. "Then today is a first," said Mama cheerfully. She took out her checkbook. After a moment, the woman opened the doors to the dogs' crates, and they all milled around us. Elinor pulled on Mama's arm. Mama leaned down, and Elinor whispered in her ear. "Oh, yes," said Mama. "And we want a cat, too." © 2011 Patricia MacLachlan Excerpted from Waiting for the Magic by Patricia MacLachlan All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.