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Five Children and It by E. Nesbit

Five Children and It (1902)

by E. Nesbit

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Psammead Trilogy (1)

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Five children left on their own during summer holidays discover a sand-fairy called a Psammead in a gravel pit who will grant them one wish each day. Of course, the wishes go awry in a humorous way, but thankfully, the effects wear off at sunset.

I never got around to reading Nesbit as a child. I read this aloud to my 8-year-old son. We both enjoyed the humorous adventures and the cranky Psammead, and it led to lots of conversations about wishes and unintended consequences. I found the characterizations of the girls don't pass muster for modern sensibilities, and the chapter about Indians was uncomfortably stereotyped. Despite those hiccups, this was a fun read. ( )
  sturlington | May 2, 2016 |
Recommended to me as: "If you like children's or YA, there is loads of Edith Nesbit - the Psammead (Five Children and It, The Phoenix and the Carpet, The Story of the Amulet) and Bastable (The Story of the Treasure-Seekers, the Wouldbegoods, the New Treasure Seekers) series are huge classics as is The Railway Children. The Psammeads are urban fantasy a bit in the Narnia vein (more Magician's Nephew than LWW - there are a couple of bits in Magician's Nephew that are more or less direct Nesbit rip-offs) but much better-written. If you've read A S Byatt's The Children's Book, Nesbit is the writer the mother is based on. Her influence on British, particularly, children's fantasy is pretty evident up through JKR and DWJ."
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
E. Nesbit is a writer I've been meaning to read since about 4th grade. In many of Edgar Eager's books ("Half-Magic" absolutely delighted me as a child) he mentions her magical tales, and I believe I tried reading one at that age, but found its Victorian sentences too long, convoluted and boring for me. Nevertheless, I've always intended to read her books and have been collecting them slowly from various used book stores. This last year I read A.S. Byatt's "The Children's Book" which I loved, and I have read that the mother/children's book writer at the center of the main family in this novel was based on E. Nesbit.
"Five Children and It" is the story of a set of siblings who one day find a psammead or sand-fairy. The sand-fairy can grant them one wish a day, which lasts only until sunset. To the chagrin of the children (two boys, two girls and a baby) their wishes seem to always cause them more trouble than expected, but does lead them into all sorts of imaginative adventures. It is a delightful story. The language is perfectly readable and the adventures interesting. (I'm not sure which book I tried reading of hers in elementary school, but I'm sure it was not this one.)
I'm actually surprised that a movie has not been made based on this book. The characters of the children reminded me of some of the movies set during the turn-of-the-century shown on "The World of Disney" show from the sixties and starring British child actors. [Anyone remember "The Three Lives of Thomasina"?] Anyway, it is highly recommended for ages 9 - 12. ( )
  Marse | Feb 27, 2016 |
Four children and their toddler brother find a 'sand-fairy'that can grant wishes. The wishes turn out to cause problems, but rather than being the typical morality tales of the era, these children are down-to-earth, practical, and enjoy having fun. ( )
  SueinCyprus | Jan 26, 2016 |
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 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
E. Nesbitprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Millar, H. R.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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?'
Last words
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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.

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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:37 -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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