Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Five Children and It (MG)

Five Children and It. E. Nesbit. 1902/2004. Puffin Classics. 240 pages.

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?' And every time they passed a house, which was not very often, they all said, 'Oh, is this it?' But it never was, till they reached the very top of the hill, just past the chalk-quarry and before you come to the gravel-pit. And then there was a white house with a green garden and an orchard beyond, and mother said, 'Here we are!'

It has been almost two years since I first discovered E. Nesbit. Five Children and It was the very first of her novels that I read, and it was definitely LOVE from the very beginning.

The five children are Robert, Cyril, Anthea, Jane, and Lamb. The 'it' is a sand fairy--a Psammead. The four children discover him one day during their summer vacation while they're digging in a nearby sand pit. They're quite delighted to learn that he can grant wishes. Though it's easy for anyone to see that he doesn't like granting wishes all that much. Still, the children are happy to think of one wish after another after another. A wish per day is what they're allowed. And oh the wishes they think up!!! But it doesn't take them very long to realize that they're not all that smart and clever with those wishes. For almost every day their wish leads them into TROUBLE. If wishing leads to trouble, why wish for anything? Well, even bad wishes make for a way to spend the day.

This book is so much fun! Just a delight to spend time with these characters. I'd definitely recommend it!

My favorite quotes:
Grown-up people find it very difficult to believe really wonderful things, unless they have what they call proof. But children will believe almost anything, and grown-ups know this. That is why they tell you that the earth is round like an orange, when you can see perfectly well that it is flat and lumpy; and why they say that the earth goes round the sun, when you can see for yourself any day that the sun gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night like a good sun as it is, and the earth knows its place, and lies as still as a mouse. (5)

I daresay you have often thought what you would do if you had three wishes given you, and have despised the old man and his wife in the black-pudding story, and felt certain that if you had the chance you could think of three really useful wishes without a moment's hesitation. These children had often talked this matter over, but, now the chance had come suddenly to them, they could not make up their minds. (17)

But the happening of strange things, even if they are not completely pleasant things, is more amusing than those times when nothing happens but meals, and they are not always completely pleasant, especially on the days when it is cold mutton or hash. (54)

Lending ears was common in Roman times, as we learn from Shakespeare; but I fear I am getting too instructive. (59)

When the frock was darned, the start for the gravel-pit was delayed by Martha's insisting on everybody's washing its hands -- which was nonsense, because nobody had been doing anything at all, except Jane, and how can you get dirty doing nothing? That is a difficult question, and I cannot answer it on paper. In real life I could very soon show you -- or you me, which is much more likely. (59)

It is very wise to let children choose exactly what they like, because they are very foolish and inexperienced, and sometimes they will choose a really instructive thing without meaning to. (85)

The people who decide what the weather is to be, and put its orders down for it in the newspaper every morning, said afterwards that it was the hottest day there had been for years. They had ordered it to be 'warmer -- some showers', and warmer it certainly was. In fact it was so busy being warmer that it had no time to attend to the order about showers, so there weren't any. (86)

'I was always generous from a child,' said the Sand-fairy. 'I've spent the whole of my waking hours in giving. But one thing I won't give --that's advice.'
'You see,' Anthea went on, 'it's such a wonderful thing -- such a splendid, glorious chance. It's so good and kind and dear of you to give us our wishes, and it seems such a pity it should all be wasted just because we are too silly to know what to wish for.'
Anthea had meant to say that -- and she had not wanted to say it before the others. It's one thing to say you're silly, and quite another to say that other people are.
'Child,' said the Sand-fairy sleepily, 'I can only advise you to think before you speak--'
'But I thought you never gave advice.'
'That piece doesn't count,' it said. 'You'll never take it! Besides it's not original. It's in all the copybooks.' (89-90)

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Nan 5:41 PM  

What a wonderful, wonderful review! I own this book but haven't read it yet. I believe I saw a PBS production years and years ago of this story.

Sherry 10:41 AM  

I like your quotes, and I'm enjoying this E. Nesbit journey you're on this week. I'd like to join you, but alas! I have way too many other reading projects. Oh, and thank you for posting at the Saturday Review at Semicolon. If you hadn't done so, I might have been too busy to to even dip into your blog, and I would have missed a taste of Nesbit's fantasy.

Katrina 5:42 PM  

I read E. Nesbit as a child and started re-reading them a few years ago and I think I enjoy them even more as an adult. Not many people read her work nowadays, I hope she'll become more widely read in the future - with your help!

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