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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Five Children and It (Five Children #1) by E. Nesbit

Ever read a book that you know is supposed to be funny, but you didn't find it so? I chuckled once in awhile but for the most part I got tired of the children's adventures that inevitably went wrong. Nesbit does a nice job capturing the nature of these children. They are loyal to each other and squabble at the same time. Maybe it is because I'm an adult. Maybe I've read too many genie-in-a-bottle stories and its become clich├ęd for me. Or maybe the adult narrator with comments on being a child didn't charm me. Or maybe the lack of internal changes as the children keep making the same mistakes over and over got tedious. Yes, they learn to be careful for what they wish for in the end, but I don't think they gained any long-lasting wisdom. Or maybe I'm just exhausted from a ridiculously busy work week. Written around 1900, readers might find the stereotypes of Indians and servants offensive. Many have talked about the charm of Nesbit's books, but this one felt tarnished.

Five children are at a summer house outside London being watched by servants because their parents have been called away on urgent business. Mostly unsupervised, the children explore a gravel pit and uncover a Sand-fairy that will grant them a wish a day. They wish for beauty, money, wings, etc. Each wish materializes in an unexpected way resulting in missed meals and misunderstandings with adults. While the siblings quarrel quite a bit they also stick up for each other. They have a code of honor so that even when they steal some food they leave a note explaining why and that they didn't take any pudding. That was an instance where I should have laughed but didn't think it that funny. While there is plenty of imaginative play going on, I couldn't slip into the magic of the story. It is based in the real world and perhaps that explains why - I wanted an escape from the real world. There is no world building and it is basically the magic of the wishes that only the five can see and the adults can't. I kept waiting for more to happen and when it didn't I felt let down.

Sometimes the children accidentally make wishes that created some tangled situations, such as when they wish everyone would love the baby more than anyone else resulting in every person that saw their baby brother trying to kidnap him. The gypsies in that episode are stereotyped too which drained the humor out of the scene for me. The children make wishes that deal with wealth, looks, or fantasies like flying or sword fighting, but nothing comes out right. Honest, I really wanted to like the book. But I couldn't. Uff da!

3 Smileys

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