The Magic Nation Thing
Book tmnt 2005
First Edition Cover
First Published: 2005
Identifier: ISBN 0385730853
Pages: 176
More Details
Chapter Summaries
List of Characters
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The Magic Nation Thing is a book by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, first published in 2005.


The book is about valuing a harmonious life over power and fame. Twelve-year-old Abby O'Malley is able to sense things and have visions about persons, and both her mother and her friend want to capitalize on this, asking her to help them with various investigations. However, Abby wishes to be like everyone else and longs for a normal life with her parents, trying to forget about her weird gift.


Abby calls her powers her "Magic Nation" thing after mishearing a comment from a daycare supervisor who told it was just her "imagination".

Plot SummaryEdit

Abby lives alone with her mother, Dorcas O'Malley, in modest circumstances. Dorcas divorced from her husband, Martin, several years ago, starting up a detective agency where she works as a private investigator, and gets to spend little time with her daughter. She wishes that Abby would take over the agency some day, as her special gift would come handy in the investigations, but the girl has no interest in using such powers to make a career, rather preferring a normal family life. However, she occasionally ends up helping out her mother in her investigations, either accidentally, or because she feels indebted to her.

When Abby's best friend Paige Borden finds out about Abby's talent, she is excited and suggests that they should start all kinds of investigations, such as finding out where did a neighbor go, what is in a grave on the soccer field, or whether a bill is counterfeit or not. However, Abby does not want to use her powers, especially for unimportant things, and refuses to be treated like some weird fortune-teller. Tension builds between the two friends, and in the end they break up their friendship.

When the Bordens and Abby go to Squaw Valley for a skiing holiday, Paige's six-year-old brother, Sky, wanders off in a snowstorm and disappears. Abby decides to use her powers to find Sky, and she has a vision about the backseat of a car. Eventually, Sky is found in some strangers' car and is reunited with his family. Abby and Paige are friends again, and Abby believes she would try to use her powers again if something as important as this happened.

At the end of the book, Abby's parents reconcile and decide to give their marriage another try. Abby is delighted as she will live again with her parents in a normal family.


The Magic Nation Thing received generally favorable reviews.


This book did not receive any awards.


"Snyder's characters appear on these pages as fully thought out, three-dimensional people. Abby's desire to be like everyone else is utterly understandable and Paige is simultaneously manic and likable. However, the ending is far-fetched and comes out of left field as Abby's divorced parents spontaneously, and with little reason, end up together once more. An additional purchase to the many books that examine the connections between magic and day-to-day life."[1]

- School Library Journal

"Readers will delight in Snyder's vivid descriptions of Abby's special powers, but what will draw them most is the warm, believable story about friends dealing with anger and new feelings."[1]

- Booklist

"Paige's obnoxious personality and a rampant anti-climax mar an otherwise well-written adventure of self-realization."[1]

- The Horn Book

"Readers will find plenty to relate to here: a close, oft-stormy preteen friendship; Abby's wish to reunite her divorced parents; Paige's obnoxious-but-not-irredeemable brothers; ski-trip antics and flirtations; and, of course, the excitement of detective work. While the themes are often belabored, this remains a lively, engaging read."[1]

- Kirkus Reviews

"The characters in The Magic Nation Thing seem like real people. They include a frequently irritating mother, a beautiful adult friend who hates being considered gorgeous, and a best friend whose spunkiness sometimes lands the two girls in trouble. In addition, Abby's special powers are described so thoroughly and convincingly that the reader nearly experiences them! This book is an excellent read, with a fast-paced plot and a subtle but thought-provoking theme about self-acceptance."[2]



The Magic Nation Thing was first published in 2005 by Delacorte.

Publication HistoryEdit

The following English language editions are known[3]:


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Retrieved from
  2. Retrieved from
  3. Fantastic Fiction list

See AlsoEdit

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