Five Children and It

E. Nesbit, Ella Okstad

Five Children and It
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Five Children and It

E. Nesbit, Ella Okstad

When Cyril, Anthea, Robert, Jane and their baby brother start exploring a gravel pit not far from their new countryside home, they make an unexpected and very curious discovery. The gravel pit is home to a Psammead, a sand fairy. This ugly creature has eyes like a snail, ears like a bat and the body of a spider, and is very grumpy indeed. He grants the children one wish every day, and though they are excited to have all their desires fulfilled, they soon realize that having one’s wishes come true can have unexpected consequences…

E. Nesbit’s much loved children’s tale has enchanted generations of readers, and has been adapted for the screen numerous times - most notably by the BBC in a hugely popular 1990s series. It remains one of the most cherished children’s classics ever written, and an indispensable part of every young reader’s library.

Review

When five siblings discover a Psammead – an ancient, wish-granting, sand fairy – they think all their dreams have come true. The delightfully grumpy Psammead has eyes like a snail, ears like a bat and a plump body covered in fur. It agrees to grant them one wish a day. But of course the old adage ‘be careful what you wish for’ proves to be accurate and pandemonium ensues as each wish goes comically awry.

The children all have a propensity for making very silly and imprecise wishes – ‘being as beautiful as the day’, for instance – which might not seem endearing but does lead to some very amusing hijinks. The Psammead steals every scene it’s in with its self-important manner and witty retorts.

E. Nesbit created a very real portrait of bickering-but-loving siblings and added a dose of magic, an enchanting combination of everyday life and fantasy for which she became renowned. Nesbit’s work was a precursor to many books beloved in that genre including Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia. Five Children and It would be a charming choice to read aloud and is the perfect alternative if you’re tiring of Enid Blyton but still want a rollicking, old-fashioned, English adventure.


Daniella Robertson is a children’s and YA specialist at Readings Malvern.

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