Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sara's Library: Five Children and It

Five Children and It by E. Nesbit
Original publication: T. Fisher Unwin 1902
This edition: Random House 2010

When a wealthy family sends its children to a country house in Kent, the four older children (Robert, Anthea, Cyril, and Jane) discover a Psammead, or Sand-Fairy, in a gravel pit near the house.  The Psammead is a small, brown furry thing with eyes like a snail's, and he claims to have been buried in the pit since the Stone Age, making it difficult for him to grant wishes as he used to.  He does agree, however, to grant the children a collective wish each day, which will last until sundown.

The children proceed to wish for the sorts of extravagant wishes that are to be expected (beauty, wealth, to be rid of their baby brother), and each wish backfires with comedic results.  Of course, the children learn a lesson from each of their wishes gone bad, as this is classic children's literature, and as such, somewhat didactic while still being entertaining.

It's a very dry humor, and coupled with the archaic language, I don't think this book would please the average child today.  There's not enough excitement or action to really captivate a modern child, which is unfortunate because it is a good story.  Leave this one to children's literature scholars.

As for this particular edition, it's a hardcover with the original illustrations by H.R. Millar included.  The illustrations are black and white, but they really evoke the time period, so I do recommend reading an edition with them if you enjoy turn-of-the-century children's lit.

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