Chris's Reviews > Five Children and It

Five Children and It by E. Nesbit
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's review
Oct 13, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy, j, light, not-graphic, life

If you could have anything you wanted, what would it be? Quickly now, off the top of your head. You get one wish, immediately. What is it?

Okay, now that you’ve made your wish, think it through very carefully and try to imagine all the ways it might go wrong. Because your wish won’t turn out the way that you think. Wishes never do, you know. The creature granting the wish always finds a way to twist your words so they mean something a bit different than you thought, people will react to your changed state of affairs in ways you haven’t predicted, and there will be repercussions you haven’t yet imagined. So think hard about your wish. How might it go wrong?

That’s the tale in this book. Four siblings (and their baby brother) find a fairy and learn the hard way that having your wishes come true isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. The Psammead is bound to grant them one wish a day, but the wishes always end with nightfall and none of them work as hoped. Each time the children try to plan carefully, but only end up getting themselves (and others) into trouble.

While you may be familiar with this kind of story, realize that this one was written over a hundred years ago by one of the earliest authors who wrote books for children. In some ways it’s a bit old fashioned, but her witty, sometimes snarky writing certainly portrays characters that ring true regardless of place or time. So true, in fact, that part of the fun is slapping your forehead at how dumb they are with their wishes and imagining how you might do better. Could you? Try this enjoyable read and find out.

The house was deep in the country, with no other house in sight, and the children had been in London for two years, without so much as once going to the seaside even for a day by an excursion train, and so the White House seemed to them a sort of fairy palace set down in an earthly paradise. For London is like prison for children, especially if their relations are not rich.

Of course there are the shops and the theatres, and Maskelyne and Cook’s, and things, but if your people are rather poor you don’t get taken to the theatres, and you can’t buy things out of the shops; and London has none of those nice things that children may play with without hurting the things or themselves--such as trees and sand and woods and waters. And nearly everything in London is the wrong sort of shape--all straight lines and flat streets, instead of being all sorts of odd shapes, as things are in the country. Trees are all different, as you know, and I am sure some tiresome person must have told you that there are no two blades of grass exactly alike. But in streets where the blades of grass don’t grow, everything is like everything else. This is why so many children who live in towns are so extremely naughty. They do not know what is the matter with them, and no more do their fathers and mothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, tutors, governesses, and nurses; but I know. And so do you now. Children in the country are naughty sometimes, too, but that is for quite different reasons. . . .

The best part of it all was that there were no rules about not going to places and not doing things. In London almost everything is labeled “You mustn’t touch,” and though the label is invisible it’s just as bad, because you know it’s there, or if you don’t you jolly soon get told.
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