Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Five Children and It, by E. Nesbit

On this heels of Dahl (and that particularly strange story) I was interested in reading something more substantial to, um, cleanse my reading palate. (I know! I know! That's some sort of heretical statement to some.) I wanted something that was more challenging for mommy as a reader as well as something challenging and imaginative for the children and I've come to discover that Nesbit fits the bill quite well.

I never read Nesbit as a child (regrettable fact!) and so I'm playing catch up now. I feel confident in saying that if I had read these books as a child I would be re-reading them now. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, a good children's book is one that you want to read over and over again, even as an adult, and I think Nesbit is fun for adults or kids. I've been collecting Nesbit titles of late and Bookworm1 picked Five Children and It as our next read aloud. (Admittedly, he picked this one out in part because there is a movie based on the book and a promise of a family movie night if we read the book first.)

Five Children and It was first published in 1902 and has never been out of print. It is the first in a trilogy (and yes I purchased the others). The second title is The Phoenix and the Carpet and the third is The Story of the Amulet.

In this first book we meet up with five siblings: Robert, Anthea, Cyril, Jane, and their baby brother, who they affectionately call "Lamb." The children have just moved to the English countryside with their parents and they discover a gravel pit where they go to play. One morning while playing, they discover a Psammead (a sand fairy) who burrows in the ground. This Psammead has the ability to grant the children one wish each morning and the effects of the wish are due to last until sundown of the same day. The next day they can make a new wish and so on and so forth. The children are naturally delighted with their discovery and begin dreaming up wishes. However, as it turns out, they aren't very good at making wishes and are frequently thoughtless in their wish making.

One day the children wish for riches, only to discover that the riches are worthless because there is too much gold to carry and none of the local shop owners can make change for their wealth. Despite their grandiose plans for acquiring food and toys to their hearts delight, they are denied making purchases because of the excessiveness of their request (or, you might say, because of their greed). Another morning they wish for wings and discover that wings can put them in positions wherein they discover themselves in a frightful amount of trouble. Still again, in a moment of frustration they wish that "everyone would want Lamb" so that they wouldn't have to cart him about with them everywhere they go. This wish was particularly disagreeable to the children in the end as everyone they met did want the Lamb and tried (and succeeded) to kidnap the baby. Instead of having a day to themselves to do as they pleased, they spent the whole day trying to rescue Lamb or keep him hidden and safe. In the end, they discover that wishes are more bother than they are worth and sometimes it's better to just let things as they are and enjoy the natural ride that life will take you on.

Five Children and It is quite a fun read. It is a challenge for younger readers as the vocabulary is slightly archaic but not so much that the younger reader isn't able to comprehend what was happening. Bookworm1 was quite able to follow along and several of the situations that the children landed themselves in resulted in him having a laugh at their expense. I, too, chuckled my way through more than one chapter. I might suggest this book for ages 7 and up but that is only because of the vocabulary. It makes for a great read aloud and it was perfect for us in all respects. Another win for Nesbit and for us!

Other titles we have read by Nesbit (linked to thoughts):

* The Book of Dragons


We watched the movie version on Monday night, after concluding the read. It was, in a word, horrible. About 15 minutes in Bookworm1 said, "This isn't ANYthing like the book!" And at the conclusion of the film he said again, "That was ANYthing like the book!" (He said he preferred the book better . . . just like a good little bookworm should, right? ha.)

In the film version, the story is set in WWII. The five children are being sent out from London to live in the countryside (sound oh so familiar?) with their eccentric uncle and cousin. They do find a sand fairy and he does grant wishes but the primary goal of said wishes all revolve around the children's father - a fighter pilot - and his safe return home.

The acting is weak, the sand fairy not at all what I imagine from reading the story and we generally give the movie a big thumbs down. Bookworm2 enjoyed the scary dinosaur scene though . . . which occurred nowhere in the book.


Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I didn't read Nesbit growing up, either, and I've been somewhat slow to warm up to her. I'll have to Gaige this one a try.

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

*give--autocorrect strikes again!

Litterairy said...

I loved Edith Nesbit's books growing up. My favorite was The Enchanted Castle, followed by The Railway Children and The Would-be-goods.

Sherry said...

"The Railway Children" is our favorite Nesbit book so far, and both the old Disney movie and the BBC version are very enjoyable (and,I think, quite true to the book)

Beth said...

My kid's love 5 Children and It and the sequels. I think so far those have been their favorites.

Also check out some of Edward Eager's books. He was a big fan of E. Nesbit and it shows in his writings. Our favorites have been Half-Magic and Knight's Castle.

Tonia said...

Love Nesbit! Regrettably, I didn't read her novels as a child either but I'm certainly enjoying them as an adult. We really enjoyed this series - we listened to the audiobooks last year. Planning to read aloud The Railway Children this year as a part of our Narnia studies since Nesbit was an influence on Lewis' writing.

Barbara H. said...

I hadn't heard of this - it sounds interesting!

Shonya said...

Of COURSE the movie wasn't nearly as good--I've given up on even trying to watch the pitiful attempts!

And glad you're enjoying Nesbit with your kiddos--fun books.

Heather VanTimmeren said...

We love, love, love Nesbit around here, and your application of the C. S. Lewis quote is perfect! I'm sure these are just the type of books he had in mind.

The Enchanted Castle is lovely, as is a lesser known title The House of Arden.

We haven't watched that movie version, but our library has an older BBC version which is much more true to the story, albeit lacking in realistic special effects as a more recent adaptation might be. I think it just adds to the charm!

Diary of an Autodidact said...

I've never read these, although my wife did. We own at least the first one.

Just a thought that occurred to me: this book might be a good one for those who are fanatically into purchasing gold for the future apocalypse. Who *will* be able to make change for them?

Yet another reason to read good kids books ;)

Stephanie said...

It is such a fun book (and I admit, we did enjoy the movie at our house). : ) I'll have to look up The Enchanted Castle after so many recommendations here!

Sky said...

The book sounds great! The movie is coming off my list! A fighter pilot who may not come home? No thanks!
Thank you for your review!

Bluerose said...

I'm reading the particularly strange story right now. ;) I'm not too far in, but so far I'm loving how weird it is.

Mirlandra said...

Yes, you do have smart bookworms! There many children's movies made from books that I totally will not watch!

Carrie said...

I think next up (for me alone) is Wet Magic. The only reason I shall read it alone is that the kids and I have moved on to other things. But I can't resist slipping back into Nesbit for myself. :)

BerlinerinPoet said...

I LOVE The Five Children and It. Now I want to re-read it.

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