Estate planning lawyer and mom to two boys. My older son liked audiobooks as an infant, and I've listened to a lot since then.
I'm torn about how to review this book. I adore Stephen Fry's narration, and we all have loved the Paddington stories. I'd particularly recommend the other two that are available on Audible. I realize this comment may be unfair, but I didn't notice how short this one was when I bought it. The other two audios are over 2 hours long and this is like 13 minutes. So I wanted to warn any prospective purchasers who thought this was volume 3 of a wonderful series.
On the other hand, anyone who loves children's books on audio needs to listen to Paddington as read by Fry. I would just recommend the other 2 recordings.
When my sons and I listen to audiobooks, I usually enjoy them as much as the kids. This wasn't one of those times. That said, my 11 year old son finished the book in just a few sittings, on an airplane. He said this wasn't his favorite and wasn't interested in listening to the sequels, but clearly it held his interest while he was listening. His biggest complaint was that the focus of the story was on dating and relationships, and he assumed from the title it would be mostly tied in to Star Wars.
This is a popular series so I assume our experience is an anomaly, but wanted to share our thoughts in case you have a kid who doesn't like relationship drama, or like me want to find books you both enjoy.
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.