Jim's Books

Five Children and It

E Nesbit

Five Children and It
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ISBN: 9781853261244


"Its eyes were on long horns like a snail's eyes... it had ears like a bat's ears, and its tubby body was shaped like a spider's and covered with thick, soft fur... and it had hands and feet like a monkey's". 'It' was the Psammead, the grumpy sand-fairy that could, if in the mood, grant a wish a day. When the five children befriend him they find that each wish granted often has a sting in its tail.

Reviewed on 23rd January 2019

I first read this book many years ago, and recall vaguely a television series based on it. I was inspired to pick it back off the shelf after I’d been discussing it with some colleagues. It’s the tale of a family of children, who with their mother and servants, retire to stay in a somewhat dilapidated house in the countryside, near a disused quarry.

There are a number of what I think of as nods to the adults that I suspect the author believes to be reading to the intended youthful audience, but much of the backstory that might interest an adult is skipped over in favour of the adventure. There’s certainly a dated element to it - I suspect a lot would not be identify-with-able for today’s young audience without having to set some of the historical context (but I could be wrong) - and this is true of the narration as well as the content.

I’m not entirely sure what the point of the book is - it’s clearly not strictly educational, but I’m also not convinced there’s much of a morality tale to it beyond explaining the law of unintended consequences. Perhaps it is indeed just a fun adventure - which it still is, just about.

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