Like Nesbit's other little-known juvenile fantasy, "The Magic City," this one--her last--has very much the feel of L. Frank Baum about it, specifically "The Sea Fairies." Francis, Mavis, Kathleen, and Bernard are excited to be going to the seaside for the first time in their lives--and even more so when they learn that a live mermaid has been captured in the very town where they're to stay. Francis and Mavis, exploring the beach in the hopes that they may see another, suddenly hear a voice that urges, "Save her. We die in captivity." And so they set out to, with the help of Reuben, the Spangled Boy, who does an equestrian act in the circus where the mermaid is imprisoned--and proves to have been kidnapped in infancy by gypsies! In gratitude all five are invited to visit the undersea country from which the rescued mermaid comes, and after that adventures come thick and fast.
Nesbit, as always, creates children who are both real and distinctly individual (Bernard, for example, is hopeless at "sums" (the British term for arithmetic) and tends to be terminally clumsy), as well as a fascinating fantasy world with a logic all its own. Just as "The Railway Children" may be my favorite of all her non-magical juveniles, so this one may be the magical one I like best of all. Young (and not so young!) readers of Baum and Edward Eager should enjoy it.
As all Nesbit - magical magic and wonderfully real children to enjoy it in the story. Could NOT give fewer than 5 stars even though the weird quote marks make the dialogue hard to read. If the editor/publisher sees this- PLEASE fix this format problem..."quote marks are supposed to look like this" not how they appear in this edition.
I've been binge reading E. Nesbit, and my favorites are tthe ones with plenty of everyday details of life mixed in with the magic. This story is almost all fantasy and the bulk of that consists of details of an underwater battle among sea people and creatures. Didn't appeal as much to me, but might to others.