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.
Audible has changed my life! Dry , itchy eyes were destroying one of my greatest pleasures - reading. Now I am experiencing books again!
Initially, I was disappointed that Kimberley Reynolds lacks the dynamic and conversational style that is so desirable in an Audible course.
But, wait. The information packed into this set of lectures is so interesting and so valuable that I soon forgave, and actually came to like, the rather stiff delivery. This is a serious presentation of the history not only of children's literature but of the changing concept of childhood itself.
Most of us choose books for our children based on what we have enjoyed ourselves, what we think will interest the kids and advance their reading skills, and on the pure entertainment value of the material. This course will likely not change that, but having a more scholarly foundation about the psychological and developmental benefits of reading for young people at different stages will offer a great advantage for parents, grandparents, teachers, librarians and others who help children choose appropriate books.
The literature covered includes analysis of books for all ages of childhood, from infancy to young adult. When the subjects got a bit too esoteric for me (mostly in the YA lectures), I found the PDF study guide to be very helpful in deciding which lectures would interest me most. Although the analyses sometimes offer more detail than many of us ultimately want, I believe there is much general and particular information here that will be of interest and value to all parents and literature lovers.
Another benefit is the timely nature of the course. Harry Potter is discussed, as are "The Hunger Games" series. Professor Reynolds touches on new technologies like digital and interactive books and the endless merchandise tie-ins which are peddled to children on the media. There's a bit near the end about the effects of tough economic times on youngsters. This is up-to-date stuff!