Half Magic by Edward Eager.
Another kid’s book. This one had such a strong premise: Kids find a magic trinket. The trinket grants wishes, but it only grants your wish halfway. So they have to first (1) figure out that this is what’s happening, and then (2) figure out how to get their actual wishes granted by stating things correctly. Oh and (3) realize that the whole wishing / magicking thing never works out quite how you planned.
The book was written in 1954, which I guess explains the racist portrayals (oh, dear lord, their adventure to the desert, with the swarthy menacing Arab) and the deep core of sexism (four siblings, and every just agrees that the boy is the best and gets to do all the best stuff, etc.).
It was actually probably fairly tame for its time in this respect, but I had a really hard time getting past especially the sexist shit running through the whole thing.
I originally heard about the book from an NPR show I trust … well, I was going to say completely, but maybe not so completely anymore? I like interspersing the occasional YA book, but maybe going as far as kids’ books isn’t working out for me. I haven’t really liked any of the younger-than-YA books I’ve sampled.