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
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.