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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.
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature.
The Marvelous Land of Oz is the first of L. Frank Baum’s fourteen sequels to his much more famous novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Each of the sequels, which were published form 1904 to 1920, are illustrated by John R. Neill and are now in the public domain. My 11 year old daughter and I listened to a delightful audio version of The Marvelous Land of Oz which was read by Tara Sands. I purchased this version for free at Amazon and added Tara Sands’ wonderful narration for $2.99 with the Amazon/Audible Whispersync deal.
In The Marvelous Land of Oz, an orphan boy named Tip is being raised by an evil witch named Mombi. One day Tip tries to frighten Mombi by making a pumpkin-headed stick man and placing it on the road where Mombi will pass on her way home. Instead of being scared, Mombi animates the pumpkin-headed man with the magical Powder of Life which she has just illegally procured. When she threatens to turn Tip into a statue, Tip and the pumpkin-headed man (now named Jack) flee with the Powder of Life. They animate a wooden sawhorse and set off for the Emerald City which has been run by the Scarecrow since Dorothy and the Wizard left.
When they get to the Emerald City, a coup attempt is in progress. The Scarecrow’s throne is being usurped by a nasty little girl named Jinjur and her gang of girls wielding knitting needles. Tip and Jack want to help the Scarecrow get his throne back, so they all set out to get help from the Tinman, Glinda the Good Witch, and others (but not Dorothy — she’s still in Kansas). Can they get the Scarecrow’s throne back before the pumpkin head spoils?
The Marvelous Land of Oz is a creative and fun story in its own right, and it can definitely stand alone, but fans of Baum’s original OZ story are sure to relish revisiting the land of Oz and its strange but familiar characters. Beside those we already know, readers will meet a few new endearing heroes who I hope we’ll see again in the remaining sequels. My favorite was the Highly Magnified Bug who insists that making puns is a sign of genius.
The story is not all silly laughs — there are actually some thoughtful bits, too. For example, the characters wonder whether Scarecrow is justified in fighting for his throne when it didn’t legally belong to him in the first place. It had been stolen by the Wizard.
Both my daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed The Marvelous Land of Oz and plan to read the next book, Ozma of Oz.
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.