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.
What is there to say, I am a 40-something professional man with kids who like to listen to light books while on the bus to work.
While on vacation and driving the length of California back up from San Diego I downloaded this book for my family to listen to as we drove the long slog of I5. What a great choice!!! My 5 year old daughter was engrossed by this story and did not speak a peep for 6 hours straight as we drove the last 400 miles from Northern Cali to Washington. My wife was also engrossed and for the first time on that vacation I was able to experience a bit of quiet, the whole family quietly listened to the antics of Ramona and enjoyed her little story.
About the story itself...I never read these books as a child so was unfamiliar with them when I started. Basically this series follows the growth of a precocious little girl, named Ramona, and all her little innocent escapades as she grows up. The first book starts with Ramona age 4 and each subsequent book she is a year older. (well.. at least so far, we have only gotten through 4 books) Nothing huge happens here, no monsters need defeating, no saving the world, just little Ramona trying to learn how to grow up and be a good person. Her trials are things like not being sure her kindergarten teacher likes her, or dealing with the fallout of a bad tantrum. They are small things, but they are told beautifully and I actually think my 5 (soon to be 6) year old daughter enjoyed them all the more because she could so well relate to the feelings (and trials) Ramona was having and experiencing. As adults, my wife and I found the stories endearing and funny as the exploits of Ramona are very familiar to anybody who has had (or has) young children. Ms. Channing’s performance is wonderful, and she really brings to life all the characters. I highly recommend this series for anybody with young children. One thing though, Ms. Cleary sometimes gives away (or almost) the secrets of things like Santa Claus/tooth fairy/etc... Early in this series Ramona loses a tooth and Ms. Cleary alludes to (but does not actually explicitly reveal) Daddy being the actual tooth fairy, that part takes about 2 min....you can easily see it coming and you may want to skip ahead if you want to make sure that you can preserve that little fiction.