I'm trying to remember the name of a novel I read as a pre-teen. If I recall correctly, it would have come out in the 90s (though it may have been a reprint).

The novel is set in modern times. I recalled this because I've been reading a lot of urban fantasy lately, and this may be the first 'urban fantasy' book I read - our world, but with a touch of magic.

There's a somewhat clumsy, out of shape teenaged (or almost teenaged) boy who doesn't have a father. His father had been a stage magician who was constantly frustrated by his son's complete inability to preform stage magic, despite a prediction saying he would have a great or powerful magic. His father had died before the book started, I don't recall how long before.

The boy does something nice for an old woman (I don't recall what) and she gifts him a magical potion. A drop of it, rubbed on his shoulder blades, will make him grow wings.

The book follows him for the summer, as he spends his evenings flying. He makes himself a toga-like shirt out of some old curtains and spends time flying around at night.

I recall one scene where he learns about two children out in the middle of the bay (perhaps the book is set in San Fran? I don't recall) in a rowboat with one oar. He saves them (by pulling them back to shore using a rope they had with them) and gets mentioned in the paper as an angel.

At the end of the book, the potion has run out. There's only a tiny little bit left, and when he rubs it in, it creates only a single feather. Around that point, the boy realizes that he's no longer getting winded going up several flights of stairs and he's gained a lot of self-confidence.

From what I remember of the copy I read, the cover featured a shirtless boy wearing jeans standing in front of a mirror, looking at the large white feathered wings that had grown from his back.

1 Answer 1


Black and Blue Magic by Zilpha (Silpha in some publishings) Keatley Snyder.

It features a young boy named Harry Houdini Marco, named such by his stage magician father after the gypsy prophecy that Harry would wield great magic. He's noted as clumsy, unable to do stage magic and unable to even catch fly balls in baseball. His father is now deceased. He does Mr. Tarzak Mazeek a favor, which leads to the man briefly staying at the boarding house that Harry's mother runs. There, Mr. Mazeek gives Harry the potion, warning him that magic must never be seen. He indeed does the toga thing and saves the kids, being briefly seen through the fog. At the end of the book, the potion yields the single feather and not only does Harry realize his wind is better, but he's also developed impressive back and pectoral muscles from all of the flying.

The cover you remember is likely this one:

Black and Blue Magic, topless boy with wings in front of mirror

  • I think you're right! Obviously, my memory is not quite right - the amazon page indicates it's an old man, not a woman, who gives him the potion. That said, the name and summary sound right. The paperback edition pictured even has the cover I remembered!
    – Jeff
    Mar 17, 2014 at 18:33
  • 1
    This is almost certainly the right answer. Dec 31, 2014 at 18:07
  • 1
    ^_^ I remember reading it as a child.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Mar 6, 2017 at 3:02

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