I must admit that I feel done with summer. It’s so hot all day long, and we are mostly stuck inside. Thank goodness for air conditioning!
Today I am excited to review Five Children and It by E. Nesbit. I have heard about E. Nesbit’s work from several bookish friends and references to her work in several novels recently. So I decided I needed to finally experience her books for myself! This is my first Nesbit novel, and I fell in love with the classic children’s story. This is a favorite of so many and a classic for a reason.
- This is a darling children’s magical story. There’s a reason I’ve heard that she inspired so many great children’s authors like Edward Eager, Iva Ibbotson, C.S. Lewis, even Jeanne Birdsall (I think this one is referenced in the Penderwicks). She writes a fun, adventure story for children.
- This isn’t a long read. But it also wasn’t a super quick read for me. With each chapter discussing a separate wish, there isn’t a lot of overarching plot to keep it moving. Perhaps that’s why I thought it was a bit slow at points. But I still enjoyed the ways their wishes always went wrong.
- I would have liked more interactions with the Psammead because he was always so funny in his grouchy way. A very clever way to bring magic into the story!
- I think this would be a great book to read out loud to my kids one day.
Five Children and It by E. Nesbit tells the story of 5 children who uncover a magical creature who will grant them one wish a day. Goodreads summarizes, “Its eyes were on long horns like a snail’s eyes… it had ears like a bat’s ears, and its tubby body was shaped like a spider’s and covered with thick, soft fur… and it had hands and feet like a monkey’s. ‘It’ was the Psammead, the grumpy sand-fairy that could, if in the mood, grant a wish a day. When the five children befriend him they find that each wish granted often has a sting in its tail. Golden guineas are too difficult to spend, wings let them down in a most inconvenient way, and when they wish for Red Indians, the children forget that they can sometimes be a little warlike. Generations of children have come to love the fantasy and the whimsy of the stories in the classic book from the author of The Railway Children.”
“Trying not to believe things when in your heart you are almost sure they are true, is as bad for the temper as anything I know.”
“And that, my dear children, is the moral of this chapter. I did not mean it to have a moral, but morals are nasty forward beings, and will keep putting in their oars where they are not wanted. And since the moral has crept in, quite against my wishes, you might as well think of it.”
Five Children and It by E. Nesbit
I saw so many of my favorite elements of children’s fiction in this book: authentic characters, surprising plot twists, and fun morals.
The siblings in this novel are great because they are so realistic. They disagree, fight, and call each other names. But they are still siblings and love each other. I enjoyed how each sibling got to make a wish (whether intentional or not) and the way they helped each other when every wish went array. I was a bit surprised by how absent their parents both were. But also realized this was first published early 1900’s so life was quite different back then. I felt nostalgic for their carefree, adventurous summer in the country.
My favorite character was actually the narrator. While this is certainly an unconventional choice, it fits the story. This narrator is witty and clever. She gives us little asides about the value of choosing certain wishes and the problems of choosing others. She often has something wise to say about wishing or about family or simply about being hungry. I laughed several times at her bluntness and enjoyed everything about her asides. For me, the narrator makes this novel endearing and worth reading.
The plot twists are so clever in this novel! I love how everything they wish for goes wrong or at least differently than they expect. I also had to smile at the way the children never quite learned their lessons about wishes and kept finding out their wildest dreams were not what they expected. My favorites are the wings, giant Robert, everyone wants the Lamb, and the besieged castle. Each was clever, surprising, and fun.
Perhaps it was the plot summary that hindered my complete enjoyment of the novel. My copy had an inaccurate plot summary on the book jacket. At least, it made the last chapter seem like a culmination of the plot while it’s really just another small story that ends the adventures well. It changed how I read the entire book because I was expecting that last wish to take more time or have other wishes building towards the climax. But it really was just another wish that happened to be the last one. It reminded me of my copy of Anne of Ingleside which did a similar, over dramatized summary on its cover. Inaccurate book jacket summaries are becoming a pet peeve of mine.
While this isn’t my new absolute favorite novel, it is certainly an enjoyable one. And inspires me to read more of Nesbit’s novels–The Railway Children is next for me! A clever, fun story for children. This is a perfect read aloud book and definitely one I want to add to my collection.
What are your favorite children’s novels?
Any E. Nesbit fans out there? Which are your favorite novels?