Five Children and It (by E Nesbit)

Every so often I need to relax my mind, and one of the easiest ways to do that is to re-read an old favourite children's book. E (Edith) Nesbit wrote several books which I enjoyed in my childhood, most of which we still have on our shelves.

'Five Children and It' is one of her best-known stories, featuring four children and their baby brother, around the turn of the 20th century. one day, playing outside, they discover a 'sand-fairy' (or Psammead) who can grant wishes. Unfortunately, as is so often the case with magical wishes, they are taken very literally and do not necessarily provide what was hoped for.

Each wish turns out to cause a great deal of problems for the children, although thankfully they only last until sunset on the day they were wished.

Still, rather than the morality tale theme that was so common in the late 19th and early 20th century (and which would have been easy to include in these stories of extravagant greed on behalf of the children!) the stories are basically good fun, with down-to-earth practical children who love each other in a typical sibling way, and who really want things to turn out all right.

Obviously rather dated, but quite suitable for today's children.

(Later note - this has recently become in vogue again, due to the film version, Five Children And It [2004])

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