Five Children and It (Five Children #1) by E. NesbitI read Five Children and It with the Women’s Classic Literature Enthusiasts group and enjoyed it immensely. If you like Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and its series mates by Betty MacDonald, you will like Five Children and It. The ideal child reader of this book is between second and fifth grade, with a fondness for historical fiction or British classics. (For comparison, this is substantially easier reading then C.S. Lewis’ fiction.) The ideal adult reader is anyone who enjoys classic children’s novels and/or Edwardian literature.
Five Children and It was published in 1902 and is the first novel in Nesbit’s Psammead trilogy, which consists of Five Children and It, The Phoenix and the Carpet (1904), and The Story of the Amulet(1906). In Five Children and It, a group of siblings (Anthea, Robert, Cyril, Jane, and a baby who is referred to as the Lamb) find the Psammead in a sand quarry near their home in the English countryside. The Psammead is a sand fairy able to grant wishes. This classic takes us to Edwardian England, where horses and buggies were the most common form of transportation, and servants looked after the children.
*If you are spoiler-averse, you may want to stop reading further.*
The most successful aspects of Five Children and It were the world-building, the authentic relationships between and amongst the children, and Nesbits writing style. I could relate to the children and their emotions. They were described and interacted in a way that fit their ages and I found them to be differentiated in age-appropriate manners. Nesbit’s writing style struck just the right tone for me, between communicating a moral and having fun. The morals weren’t overblown or eye-rolling. The vocabulary didnt strike me as dumbed-down for children, but it also was not as flowery and ornate as Frances Hodgson Burnetts contemporaneously written works and was a style I found highly appealing.
For 75% of the book, the adventures worked for me, and my pre-6th-grade self would have adored this book because it doesnt talk down to children and is sufficiently complex to appeal to adults. The sexist and racist elements (one chapter involves gypsies) grated on me but were tolerable, if Nesbit’s handling is appropriately appreciated as progressive in the context of her 1902 peers, until I encountered Scalps (it describes an adventure populated by “red Indians”) which made me want to take a shower. YMMV. The last story involving the mother and stolen (or magically relocated) jewelry was unsuccessful for me, and I am not certain why - although I suspect that the mothers involvement in the story makes it less of an adventure and more of a problem to be solved; less charming and imaginative and more dire.
As with the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series, the chapters of Five Children and It read like a series of only-lightly-connected short stories, some of which were more successful than others. It was great fun, though, a super-quick read (6 hours perhaps?) and I recommend it to anyone who reads the description and is intrigued, or who is a fan of Edwardian classics.
Background on the author: E. Nesbit was born in Kennington, Surrey in 1858. The death of her father when she was four years old and the continuing ill health of her sister meant that Nesbit had a childhood absent focused adult attention, and frequent moves. Her family moved across Europe in search of healthy climates for her sister, only to return to England for financial reasons. Growing up, she lived in France, Spain and Germany in addition to various locations in Great Britain. Her education came from a combination of periods in local elementary/grammar schools and the occasional boarding school but predominately through reading. Nesbit wanted to be known as a poet and in her teens had a poem published. This gave her greater confidence to write more, both for adults and children, but it is for her 60+ childrens books (including those on which she collaborated with other authors) she is best known. She distinguished herself from other writers of her time by writing about children as they were, and rewriting conventional adventure stories to present them with female characters in lead roles.
Her friends included HG Wells and George Bernard Shaw. She also was a political activist and a follower of William Morris and she and her husband Hubert Bland were among the founders of the Fabian Society, a socialist organization later affiliated to the Labour Party. Nesbit was an active lecturer and prolific writer on socialism during the 1880s.
Interesting links and articles (which may, necessarily, include spoilers):
Chapter 2. Golden Guineas
Five Children and It is a children's fantasy - comedy-drama adventure film adaptation of the novel Five Children and It , which features live action and computer animation. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on 11 September and was theatrically released on 15 October The film was released on DVD on 5 July Consequently, the children must meanwhile stay at their aunt and eccentric uncle's house with his unpleasant son, Horace. While exploring the house, Robert finds a locked door in the forbidden greenhouse and brings the other children.
By Hannah Furness , Arts correspondent , Dubai. Five Children and It is to be updated for modern age in a new film starring children who wish for fame and YouTube follower, with a Psammead played by Sir Michel Caine. Dame Jacqueline Wilson , who wrote the new version, has confirmed the film is to star a CGI sand fairy, and Bill Nighy as a newly-created baddie hell bent of capturing him. Sir Michael will take the role of the disgruntled Psammead, who meets a new generation of children to help them find their heart's desire. The film, which is due to begin work this summer ready to air in , will be called Four Kids and It, in a variation on the E Nesbit classic novel. Then, four children and their baby brother came across a grumpy sand fairy, or Psammead, who granted them wishes which lasted until sunset.
Five Children and It is a children's novel by English author E. It was originally published in in the Strand Magazine under the general title The Psammead, or the Gifts , with a segment appearing each month from April to December. The stories were then expanded into a novel which was published the same year. The book has never been out of print since its initial publication. Like Nesbit's The Railway Children , the story begins when a group of children move from London to the countryside of Kent. The Psammead persuades the children to take one wish each day to be shared among them, with the caveat that the wishes will turn to stone at sunset.
Anthea woke in the morning from a very real sort of dream, in which she was walking in the Zoological Gardens on a pouring wet day without any umbrella. The animals seemed desperately unhappy because of the rain, and were all growling gloomily. When she awoke, both the growling and the rain went on just the same. The growling was the heavy regular breathing of her sister Jane, who had a slight cold and was still asleep. The rain fell in slow drops on to Anthea's face from the wet corner of a bath-towel which her brother Robert was gently squeezing the water out of, to wake her up, as he now explained.