I'm the managing editor of the Fantasy Literature blog. Life's too short to read bad books!
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
Five Children and It combines eleven stories that Edith Nesbit wrote about five siblings who discovered a wish-granting fairy called The Psammead in the sandlot of the house they recently moved into. The stories were originally serialized in shorter form in Strand Magazine in 1900. The first story (the first chapter of the novel) tells how the children moved from London to Kent, explored their new house and yard, and found the Psammead. He grumpily agrees to grant the children a daily wish that will end at sundown.
Each chapter tells the story of a single day, how the children wish for something, and how it goes wrong. Usually they wish for something obvious like beauty or money, but sometimes they accidentally wish for something they didn’t really want granted, such as when Cyril carelessly wishes that his baby brother would grow up. The consequences are always unexpected and usually quite awful, and the children have to get themselves out of the situation they got themselves into, often at a cost that leaves them poorer than they were before they made the wish. It’s all rather funny and there are many lessons learned. The take away message is to be careful what you wish for!
I love Edith Nesbit’s stories — they’re still as humorous and wonderful as they were over 100 years ago. They’re delightfully old-fashioned. For example, the little boys play outside in coats and ties and have to roll down their stockings to show off their bruises. Nesbit is an intrusive narrator, often offering commentary and amusing insights about the characters or their predicaments and sometimes making polite suggestions for the reader’s own behavior. I thought the book was charming and I think it will appeal to any modern reader, child or adult.
Five Children and It has been adapted into anime, comics, a BBC TV series and movies, and several children’s authors have expanded upon the concept in their own novels. Nesbit also wrote some later stories which included the Psammead.
Five Children and It is easily found for free online since it’s now in the public domain. I listened to the audio version read by Johanna Ward who is absolutely wonderful. I got this book for $3 by “purchasing” this free Kindle version and then using the Whispersync feature to purchase the audio version. If you do likewise, make sure you’re getting Johanna Ward’s narration. There are others, but I doubt they could be better.
Another endearing children’s fantasy by a woman who obviously knows what children like. You can’t go wrong with Edith Nesbit and most of her books are in the public domain so you can get the free ebook at Amazon and add the whispersync narration. Great deal.
This is one of the best children's stories I've ever read and this particular narration with Jim Dale is stunning. Totally excellent. Highly recommended.
My 10 year old and I went right to this one after listening to The Giver. We loved it even more than that one! My daughter read ahead during reading time at school (she checked out the book from the school library) but she would still go back with me to listen to the story so I could keep up. The narrator does a wonderful job of portraying the different voices in the story, which is told from the point of view of children.
Kira is the main character. She is an adolescent girl who is growing up in a harsh and fairly primitive community. This story seems to be set in a dystopian future, after some undescribed calamity has reduced society to a level of subsistence and survival. She is orphaned, alone, and has a twisted leg. She struggles with how to survive in the community that is dominated by the physically strong. Kira is an artist and has a special gift for weaving. The community leaders recognize this ability and take her in for a unique role. However, Kira's freedom of artistic expression is also taken away. She gradually recognizes that life could be different.
The author uses humor and foreshadowing to make the story fun and suspenseful. We enjoyed pausing it to talk about what had happened, what we thought of the different characters, and what we thought would happen next. The story ends in a way that leaves much room for thought and interpretation. We immediately went on to download the third book in this series: The Messenger. I can't wait to start listening to it tonight!
As the parent of a child with dyslexia, I am so happy to have discovered Audible.com. My daughter and I can listen to many interesting and challenging books that are at her intellectual level, which would be very time consuming for her to read in print. We choose books she can check out of her school library and she reads ahead with the printed versions at school. She takes Accelerated Reader tests on the books and earns points just like her classmates, and she is developing a joy of reading that I don't think would be there if she had to struggle through the entire printed book.