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Book Review: Five Children and It, by Edith Nesbit

06 Aug

E. Nesbit was a classic British children's author whose work inspired Edward Eager. This is her first book about the "Five Children."    Goodreads says: To Cyril, Anthea, Robert, Jane, and their baby brother, the house in the country promises a summer of freedom and play. But when they accidentally uncover an accident Psammead--or Sand-fairy--who has the power to make wishes come true, they find themselves having the holiday of a lifetime, sharing one thrilling adventure after another.Genre: classic; children’s literature; fantasy

Plot Summary: Five children growing up in Victorian England stumble upon a magical creature who grants them a wish a day.  But what seems like a fun way of obtaining their hearts’ desires may turn out to be receiving their worst nightmares!

My Book Review: I remember once coming across this book on the shelf at school in 6th grade and thinking the cover looked evil, and so wouldn’t even touch it!  : )  Years later I fell in love with the “Half Magic Series” by Edward Eager, and discovered that he modeled his books (and even borrowed plots) from the author Edith Nesbit, whom he greatly admired.  I knew I had to try her out, too!  And so, I finally got my hands on “Five Children and It,” one of Nesbit’s better-known stories.

I never realized how much influence Edith Nesbit had on children’s literature and the paths she trailblazed for many authors after her.  Apparently, she was the first author who actually wrote of magic coming to children in our world, instead of writing about a fatansy-land or of children going to other places to find magic.  Finding the magical amongst the everyday should be celebrated, and the secret to staying child at heart, I believe, is to search for this.

I suppose it isn’t fair that I began comparing Nesbit with Eager, and any comparison on my part is weak, since I’ve read several Eagers to only one Nesbit.  But I did feel like Nesbit’s story was lacking something I’ve learned to love from Eager.  I can’t quite put my finger on it.  Maybe it’s that Eager had more fully developed characters, the dialogue was crisp, I laughed more, and there was always a deeper problem the children had to deal with (a sick parent, family financial problems, etc.) that the magical adventure helped them sort through.  Usually by the end of the story, the children had matured through their adventures and were better prepared to deal with their real-life situations.  But like I said, it isn’t fair for me to completely jump to conclusions, since some of Nesbit’s other books may be different.

H R Millar illustration from Five Children and It by E NesbitI enjoyed this book for many reasons.  One, a light children’s story full of imaginative wishes and the scrapes the siblings find themselves in and how they problem-solve to get out was a fun break from deeper adult fiction.  I loved the realistic way the children related to each other (something Eager carried over into his books).

I want to try reading more books by Edith Nesbit, even though I was slightly disappointed with my first one.  I wish I would have decided to read this as that kid in 6th grade, as I know I would have loved it back then.   So, I would definitely recommend this as a nice summer vacation read for younger readers!

You can listen to the complete tale of Five Children and It for free here.

So have you ever read this classic children’s story?  What did you think of it?  Feel free to post comments below!

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Posted by on August 6, 2014 in Book Reviews

 

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