I've read The Phoenix and the Carpet three times now, and, I think I've decided I love it even more than Five Children and It. (It wasn't an easy decision. But. I think I'm ready to admit the truth.) (The first review was June 2010; the second review was August 2011.)
The Phoenix and the Carpet is the sequel to Five Children and It. Readers can continue to read about the adventures and misadventures of five delightful-but-not-always-obedient children: Cyril, Robert, Anthea, Jane, and Lamb. (I like how Anthea is nicknamed "Panther" and how Lamb is always referred to by his nickname, "Lamb" because Baa was his first word. It is little details that charm me best perhaps.)
More wishes. More magic. More mischief. It's everything I loved about the first book, and then some!
I loved the adventures. I loved seeing them get in and out of trouble. And most of all I love the writing. I love E. Nesbit. I do!!!
It has been said that all roads lead to Rome; this may be true, but at any rate, in early youth I am quite sure that many roads lead to BED, and stop there — or YOU do.
‘We’re very much luckier than any one else, as it is,’ said Jane. ‘Why, no one else ever found a Psammead. We ought to be grateful.’ ‘Why shouldn’t we GO ON being, though?’ Cyril asked—’lucky, I mean, not grateful. Why’s it all got to stop?’ ‘Perhaps something will happen,’ said Anthea, comfortably. ‘Do you know, sometimes I think we are the sort of people that things DO happen to.’
‘Well,’ said the Phoenix, seeming on the whole rather flattered, ‘to cut about seventy long stories short (though I had to listen to them all — but to be sure in the wilderness there is plenty of time), this prince and princess were so fond of each other that they did not want any one else, and the enchanter — don’t be alarmed, I won’t go into his history — had given them a magic carpet (you’ve heard of a magic carpet?), and they had just sat on it and told it to take them right away from every one — and it had brought them to the wilderness. And as they meant to stay there they had no further use for the carpet, so they gave it to me. That was indeed the chance of a lifetime!’
You can always keep the Lamb good and happy for quite a long time if you play the Noah’s Ark game with him. It is quite simple. He just sits on your lap and tells you what animal he is, and then you say the little poetry piece about whatever animal he chooses to be. Of course, some of the animals, like the zebra and the tiger, haven’t got any poetry, because they are so difficult to rhyme to. The Lamb knows quite well which are the poetry animals. ‘I’m a baby bear!’ said the Lamb, snugging down; and Anthea began: ‘I love my little baby bear, I love his nose and toes and hair; I like to hold him in my arm, And keep him VERY safe and warm.’ And when she said ‘very’, of course there was a real bear’s hug. Then came the eel, and the Lamb was tickled till he wriggled exactly like a real one: ‘I love my little baby eel, He is so squidglety to feel; He’ll be an eel when he is big — But now he’s just — a — tiny SNIG!’ Perhaps you didn’t know that a snig was a baby eel? It is, though, and the Lamb knew it. ‘Hedgehog now-!’ he said; and Anthea went on: ‘My baby hedgehog, how I like ye, Though your back’s so prickly-spiky; Your front is very soft, I’ve found, So I must love you front ways round!’ And then she loved him front ways round, while he squealed with pleasure. It is a very baby game, and, of course, the rhymes are only meant for very, very small people — not for people who are old enough to read books, so I won’t tell you any more of them.
‘If you wanted me you should have recited the ode of invocation; it’s seven thousand lines long, and written in very pure and beautiful Greek.’
‘He says,’ the Phoenix remarked after some time, ‘that they wish to engage your cook permanently.’ ‘Without a character?’ asked Anthea, who had heard her mother speak of such things. ‘They do not wish to engage her as cook, but as queen; and queens need not have characters.’ There was a breathless pause. ‘WELL,’ said Cyril, ‘of all the choices! But there’s no accounting for tastes.’
Mother was really a great dear. She was pretty and she was loving, and most frightfully good when you were ill, and always kind, and almost always just. That is, she was just when she understood things. But of course she did not always understand things. No one understands everything, and mothers are not angels, though a good many of them come pretty near it. The children knew that mother always WANTED to do what was best for them, even if she was not clever enough to know exactly what was the best.
Every one was a little cross — some days are like that, usually Mondays, by the way. And this was a Monday.
‘My hat!’ Cyril remarked. ‘I never thought about its being a PERSIAN carpet.’ Yet it was now plain that it was so, for the beautiful objects which it had brought back were cats — Persian cats, grey Persian cats, and there were, as I have said, 199 of them, and they were sitting on the carpet as close as they could get to each other. But the moment the children entered the room the cats rose and stretched, and spread and overflowed from the carpet to the floor, and in an instant the floor was a sea of moving, mewing pussishness, and the children with one accord climbed to the table, and gathered up their legs, and the people next door knocked on the wall — and, indeed, no wonder, for the mews were Persian and piercing. ‘This is pretty poor sport,’ said Cyril. ‘What’s the matter with the bounders?’ ‘I imagine that they are hungry,’ said the Phoenix. ‘If you were to feed them—’ ‘We haven’t anything to feed them with,’ said Anthea in despair, and she stroked the nearest Persian back. ‘Oh, pussies, do be quiet — we can’t hear ourselves think.’ She had to shout this entreaty, for the mews were growing deafening, ‘and it would take pounds’ and pounds’ worth of cat’s-meat.’ ‘Let’s ask the carpet to take them away,’ said Robert. But the girls said ‘No.’ ‘They are so soft and pussy,’ said Jane. ‘And valuable,’ said Anthea, hastily. ‘We can sell them for lots and lots of money.’ ‘Why not send the carpet to get food for them?’ suggested the Phoenix, and its golden voice came harsh and cracked with the effort it had to be make to be heard above the increasing fierceness of the Persian mews. So it was written that the carpet should bring food for 199 Persian cats, and the paper was pinned to the carpet as before. The carpet seemed to gather itself together, and the cats dropped off it, as raindrops do from your mackintosh when you shake it. And the carpet disappeared. Unless you have had one-hundred and ninety-nine well-grown Persian cats in one small room, all hungry, and all saying so in unmistakable mews, you can form but a poor idea of the noise that now deafened the children and the Phoenix. The cats did not seem to have been at all properly brought up. They seemed to have no idea of its being a mistake in manners to ask for meals in a strange house — let alone to howl for them — and they mewed, and they mewed, and they mewed, and they mewed, till the children poked their fingers into their ears and waited in silent agony, wondering why the whole of Camden Town did not come knocking at the door to ask what was the matter, and only hoping that the food for the cats would come before the neighbours did — and before all the secret of the carpet and the Phoenix had to be given away beyond recall to an indignant neighbourhood. The cats mewed and mewed and twisted their Persian forms in and out and unfolded their Persian tails, and the children and the Phoenix huddled together on the table.
The Lamb was very glad to have his brothers and sisters to play with him. He had not forgotten them a bit, and he made them play all the old exhausting games: ‘Whirling Worlds’, where you swing the baby round and round by his hands; and ‘Leg and Wing’, where you swing him from side to side by one ankle and one wrist. There was also climbing Vesuvius. In this game the baby walks up you, and when he is standing on your shoulders, you shout as loud as you can, which is the rumbling of the burning mountain, and then tumble him gently on to the floor, and roll him there, which is the destruction of Pompeii.© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews