Nesbit, E. (2004). Five Children and It. New York: Puffin Books.
Five children (thus the first part of the title of this book—although one of the five kids is a baby and is not involved in all of the events) leave their London home with their mother visit the countryside for a week. Within hours of their arrival they discover an ancient sand fairy living in a gravel-pit. The grumpy fairy grants the children one wish each day. The catch? The wishes only last one day and the kids never quite get what they expect.
While I liked the premise of the book, the actual execution was a little too preachy or didactic for me. I like my lessons to be subtle and reached gradually, instead of shark-shaped and biting me. Don’t get me wrong, I too believe the wee children of the Earth should enjoy being ugly, being aware that an abundance of coins are heavy, loving their whiney little baby brothers, planning ahead when they’re gifted with magical wings for the inevitable moment when those wings disappear, etc. I just like to feel I’m realizing these important lessons myself.
I still liked the narrator, who occasionally interrupted the narrative to speak in the first person and refer to aspects of the story (mmmm, metafiction).
I struggled with the way this book defined class. In similar fashion to Peter Pan, “poverty” means only having a few servants instead of many. Poor nineteenth century British kids. Life is pain.
Activities to do with the book:
If I were to use this book, it would probably be as a read aloud or individual recommendation. It would be especially good for a child who is addicted to fantasy, along with this book they could also explore the works of Lewis Carroll, J.R.R. Tolkien, L. Frank Baum and C.S. Lewis.
If a student needed to do a presentation or short paper based off of this book, they could research fairy lore.
“The house was three miles from the station, but before the dusty hired fly had rattled along for five minutes the children began to put their heads out of the carriage window and to say, ‘Aren’t we nearly there?’” (p. 1).
“For London is like prison for children, especially if their relations are not rich” (p. 2).
“I feel that I could go on and make this into a most interesting story about all the ordinary things you do yourself, you know—and you would believe every word of it; and when I told about the children’s being tiresome, as you are sometimes, your aunts would perhaps write in the margin of the story with a pencil, ‘How true!’ or ‘How like life!’ and you would see it and very likely be annoyed. So I will only tell you the really astonishing things that happened, and you may leave the book about quite safely, for no aunts and uncles either are likely to write ‘How true!’ on the edge of the story. Grown-up people find it very difficult to believe really wonderful things, unless they have what they call proof. But children will believe almost anything, and grown-ups know this. That is why they tell you that the earth is round like an orange, when you can see perfectly well that it is flat and lumpy; and why they say that the earth goes round the sun, when you can see for yourself any day that the sun gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night like a good sun as it is, and the earth knows its places, and lies as still as a mouse” (pp. 4-5).
“Almost everyone had Pterodactyl for breakfast in my time! Pterodactyls were something like crocodiles and something like birds—I believe they were very good grilled” (p. 14).