Five Children and It by E. Nesbit
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.