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Five Children and It by E. Nesbit
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Five Children and It (1902)

by E. Nesbit

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Psammead Trilogy (1)

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There’s a sort of mindset you have to put yourself in when you tackle some of the children’s classics. It doesn’t apply to all the classic children's books I’ve read, but it does apply to most of those written in the period 1930-1950. There’s a sort of suspension of belief, a need to be jollied along with the tale, and an understanding that children were just, well, different then. Maybe it’s just style. But it seems that readers of Five Children and It are expected to be wide-eyed at the adventures of these kids. It is set squarely in a world where five children, from about 12 years to a baby, can be left in the care of the housemaid (who will feed them and make sure they are in bed at the right time) while the parents go off on important business. I suppose it’s not really different from leaving kids with a nanny or au pair now. Maybe my reaction is just admission that the world has changed beyond those cosy days, or at least our exposure to the media has made it so. Enough of my ramblings, what about the book?

What I like most about this book is the way the children can have just one wish granted by the fairy each day. This divides the stories up into nice neat adventures, which tend not to spill over into another day. Great for bedtime reading. The wishes are granted by It, a Sand-fairy, otherwise known as a Psammead, that the children find in a nearby gravelpit (not filled with water as all of ours are these days), The trouble is, what to wish for. The saying “be careful what you wish for, it might come true” is powerfully illustrated by the way the Psammead grants their wishes, and the consequences are not at all what the children expect. It takes time for them not to wish without intending it, and to wish for something that will actually do them some good. Happily, the effects of the wish wear off at sunset, but the four of them (thankfully the baby is often left out of the adventure through one device or other) often go hungry through missing their dinner and tea due to the effects of the wish.

Once I got into these stories I started to really enjoy them. I thought the boys were well characterised, but I never really got the hang of which girl was which. A hangover from the age, perhaps? Enid Blyton got over this by making the girls somewhat stereotypical, the tomboy and the dainty one. The way the wishes are granted are great fun, and probably gives ample opportunity for chatting about “what would you wish for?” and even more importantly “how would the Psammead grant it?”

I know I read this as a child, but I couldn’t remember it at all, apart from the existence of The Lamb (the baby). There are more books about the Five by E E Nesbit, but I didn’t read them as a child, and I don’t feel the need to read them now either. Five Children and It is an enjoyable read, but one is enough. ( )
  Jemima_Pett | Nov 11, 2014 |
4.5 stars
Originally posted at FanLit:

Five Children and It combines eleven stories that Edith Nesbit wrote about five siblings who discovered a wish-granting fairy called The Psammead in the sandlot of the house they recently moved into. The stories were originally serialized in shorter form in Strand Magazine in 1900. The first story (the first chapter of the novel) tells how the children moved from London to Kent, explored their new house and yard, and found the Psammead. He grumpily agrees to grant the children a daily wish that will end at sundown.

Each chapter tells the story of a single day, how the children wish for something, and how it goes wrong. Usually they wish for something obvious like beauty or money, but sometimes they accidentally wish for something they didn??t really want granted, such as when Cyril carelessly wishes that his baby brother would grow up. The consequences are always unexpected and usually... Read More: http://www.fantasyliterature.com/reviews/five-children-and-it/
( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
The Psammead is a grumpy sand fairy who grants wishes to five children. Unfortunately, the children find out that having wishes granted can come with unintended consequences. They wish for gold coins, but can't spend them without being accused of being thieves. They wish for a castle but find themselves in the middle of a siege. It goes on like this. In the end they wish for no more wishes! ( )
  aleader | Feb 13, 2014 |
I didn't like it much. It put me to sleep. Didn't like the choices the kids made. Stealing etc. ( )
  njcur | Feb 13, 2014 |
I found the book, on an obvious reread, still quite funny and entertaining. I wonder if the Disney Factory has done a rewrite for modern tastes. Or was that "E.T.? ( )
  DinadansFriend | Aug 30, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (34 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
E. Nesbitprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Millar, H. R.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
To John Bland.
My Lamb, you are so very small,
You have not learned to read at all.
Yet never a printed book withstands
The urgence of your dimpled hands.
So, though this book is for yourself,
Let mother keep it on the shelf
Till you can read. O days that pass,
That day will come too soon, alas!
First words
The house was three miles from the station, but before the dusty hired fly had rattled along for five minutes the children began to put their heads out of the carriage window and to say, 'Aren't we nearly there?'
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Five children find an "it", a sand-fairy called a Psammead. The sand-fairy grants them one wish each day -- and the children learn about unintended consequences, with humorous and ultimately serious consequences.
Haiku summary
E Nesbit does it
again: do children never
learn? Of course they don't.
(ed.pendragon)

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140367357, Paperback)

This title is an entrancing combination of magic with the everyday trials of childhood. 'It' is a Psammead, an ancient, ugly and irritable sand-fairy the children find one day in a gravel pit. It grants them one wish a day, lasting until sunset. But they soon learn it is very hard to think of really sensible wishes, and each one gets them into unexpected difficulties. Magic, the children find, can be as awkward as it is enticing.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:38:58 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

A series of phenomenal adventures follow when young Anthea discovers a sand-fairy who can grant wishes.

» see all 13 descriptions

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