The Power of the Psammead
E. Nesbit was the pen name for English author and poet Edith Bland (1858-1924). She published close to 40 books for children. She has been called the “first modern writer for children,” meaning that she turned away from the themes of Lewis Carroll, George MacDonald and their ilk by writing about dealing with things as they are as opposed to populating secondary worlds. That, however, did not stop her from weaving magic into her stories.
The Story of the Treasure Seekers (1898) tells of siblings whose mother dies and father loses his business. They decide to restore their fortune and the methods they uses are more fun than profitable. Their story continues in The Wouldbegoods (1899) where they are sent to the country when they misbehave and try to mend their ways.
The Railway Children (1905-1906) tells the story of a family whose father is falsely imprisoned for spying. They befriend an old gentleman who helps them free their father. This was made into a film in 1970.
My favorite books by E. Nesbit are a bit more magical.
Five Children and It (1902), The Phoenix and the Carpet (1904) and The Story of the Amulet (1906) make up the Psammead series. A Psammead is a sand fairy, which the five children find while playing. The sand fairy agrees to grant them one wish each day with the understanding that the wish will turn to stone at the end of the day. The kids don’t realize how much trouble this can cause.
The Enchanted Castle (1907) tells of children on school holiday who discover a sleeping fairy tale princess in the center of a garden maze. The Magic City (1910) is a collection of short stories, as is The Book of Dragons (1900).
All of these grace my shelves, and there are many more I have yet to discover. For those of you that love to just dive in to all the works by an author, Amazon now has an E. Nesbit megapak available on Kindle (CHEAP!) that includes 26 of her novels and short stories.
If you haven’t read her, or are hesitant to read stories published at the turn of the last century, I urge you to broaden your horizons! She is witty and her fantasies for children are clever and very readable. 🙂 She has also written many stories and story collections for adults, but I have not read them yet.