Mar 30

Five Children and It by E. Nesbit


This book is fun! The five children of the title are people that I immediately liked. They are the sort of people you want as friends, decent, fair and not a bit afraid of adventures, even magical ones. Wild Indians, gypsies, treasure, giants, a castle under siege, and others–I don’t really know which is my favorite. But I enjoyed this book so much I am going to read Nesbit’s other two books about the same kids. They are The Story of the Amulet and The Phoenix and the Carpet.

The five children range from toddler to tween, and the book is entertaining to at least that wide an age span. I am fortunate enough to have a few book friends whose ages span an eight year range. And we really enjoyed reading this together. There was someone for everyone to relate to. So if you’re lucky enough to have a younger sibling to read to, well, this is a great book to share with a little friend.

Most of the chapters can stand alone, dividing the book into nice little mini adventures, which can be enjoyed in a few minutes. Now 4 and 5, and 6 and 7, need to be read together if you want to know how they turn out, so make sure you have enough time for two chapters.

Although written over a century ago, like most classics, Five Children and It has lost very little over time. In fact the only detriment is in the, now, slightly unfamiliar setting and figures of speech. As far as the setting goes most of us have seen enough of past England in the media (ie very recently the Narnia movies) to not be put off by the provincial holiday, complete with a couple of household servants. And as for any unfamiliar vocabulary, the immersing style and tone of Nesbit’s writing succeed in conveying the meaning.

Summary from the back of the paperback published by Dover Publications, Inc.

Be careful what you wish for — you may get it!That’s what happens to five children when they decide to dig a hole through the Earth to see whether people on the other side walk upside down. They don’t get very far, though, before they uncover an ancient sand fairy. At least that’s what the youngsters call him, even though his correct name is Psammead (pronounced Sammyadd). And what a bizarre creature he is. with bat’s ears, a tubby body, furry arms and legs, and eyes that move in and out like telescopes!

Obliged to grant the children their desires (because that’s what sand fairies do), this oddity from another time and place warns of a catch: wishes come undone at sunset. And if they’re not planned carefully, there could be some very serious problems.

Illustrations, Etc.

I love the cover art by Thea Kliros on this printing because her depiction of the Psammead is the best representation of Nesbit’s fantastically charming creature that I’ve ever seen. There have been many attempts that rob the idea of its magic and even render it repulsive, the latter mostly on screen. Kliros is faithful to Nesbit’s literary description of the sand fairy. She also portrays the four older children in a way faithful to the text with accessible expressions on their faces.

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