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Five Children and It (Puffin Classics) Paperback – December 1, 1996

4.3 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Psammead Series

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Paperback, December 1, 1996
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Editorial Reviews


Winner of the 2012 Fifty Books/Fifty Covers show, organized by Design Observer in association with AIGA and Designers & Books

Winner of the 2014 Type Directors Club Communication Design Award

Praise for Penguin Drop Caps:

"[Penguin Drop Caps] convey a sense of nostalgia for the tactility and aesthetic power of a physical book and for a centuries-old tradition of beautiful lettering."
Fast Company

“Vibrant, minimalist new typographic covers…. Bonus points for the heartening gender balance of the initial selections.”
—Maria Popova, Brain Pickings

"The Penguin Drop Caps series is a great example of the power of design. Why buy these particular classics when there are less expensive, even free editions of Great Expectations? Because they’re beautiful objects. Paul Buckley and Jessica Hische’s fresh approach to the literary classics reduces the design down to typography and color. Each cover is foil-stamped with a cleverly illustrated letterform that reveals an element of the story. Jane Austen’s A (Pride and Prejudice) is formed by opulent peacock feathers and Charlotte Bronte’s B (Jane Eyre) is surrounded by flames. The complete set forms a rainbow spectrum prettier than anything else on your bookshelf."
—Rex Bonomelli, The New York Times


"Classic reads in stunning covers—your book club will be dying."
Redbook --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

The five children find a cantankerous sand fairy or 'psammead' in a gravel pit. Every day 'It' will grant each of them a wish that lasts until sunset, often with disastrous consequences. Five Children and It was first published in 1902, and it has remained in print ever since. The Introduction to this edition examines Nesbit's life and her reading, showing how she was poised between the Victorian world and a new era in which children in literature were no longer mere projections of the adult viewpoint. Sandra Kemp examines how the narrative is structured around the acting out of literary fantasies, which always come down to earth. Nesbit combines wonderfully implausible events with the prosaic and familiar, and Kemp illuminates her exploration of the shifting relationship between imagination, literature, and life. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 6
  • Lexile Measure: 980L (What's this?)
  • Series: Puffin Classics
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin (December 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140367357
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140367355
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,559,717 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This 1902 fantasy, a gift from my parents when I was in fourth or fifth grade, features an irritable Psammead whom Cyril, Anthea, Robert, Jane, and their baby brother dig up in a sand pit. Then the magic begins. The sand-fairy does not like granting wishes, and his misshapen body with bat's ears and snail's eyes bloats when he does. The wishes, lasting only until sunset, all take unexpected, funny turns.
The sand-fairy and other personalities and Victorian details render the magic entirely real-world, believable. This was my favorite children's book and I relived the delight when I found a copy to share with my own children. That this volume is illustrated by one of my favorite people from one of my favorite families triples the delight.
The book is too challenging for independent reading for children under 10, but it's a great read-aloud for small children, as are the classics of Frank Baum, E.B. White and C.S. Lewis.
Edith Nesbit was like J. K. Rowling a single mother in need of a means to support her children. Her books in their era were as popular as Harry Potter in this one. Some of her observations are surprisingly humane. Nesbit's treatment of a clan of Gypsies, for example, transcends the deep prejudice of her time. Not to worry, the book is not preachy or teachy. It's just grand, eloquent fun. Alyssa A. Lappen
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Format: Library Binding
I came upon E. Nesbit relatively late in life. I was a 20-something grad student when I found out that the "Bastables" referred to in C. S. Lewis' "The Magicians Nephew" were the children in an E. Nesbit book. Shortly after that, I found a copy of "Five Children and It" and eagerly read it.
I love E. Nesbit.
She writes in a way that is intelligent, snappy, and funny - at least to an adult. There are a lot of little side jokes in the book that seem to be aimed at the parent reading the book. I do think her books may be funnier to grown-ups looking back at childhood than they are to actual children.
And I'm afraid that many of today's children, made into literalists by the media and generally not appreciative of complex, "archaic" or "overly British" (at least among American kids) language may not get it. Which is a pity, really. The Nesbit stories are so good - so imaginative, so full of good use of language. I have read a number of her stories, but I think this is my favorite. It is basically an expansion of the old saying "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it". Five children find a Sand-Fairy (or Psammead) that can grant them wishes. But the sand fairy is a cranky literalist, who interprets the wishes of the children just as they are and wild things happen (e.g., the children wish for great beauty, and then the people around them don't recognize them). This is an extremely entertaining book. Unfortunately, I suspect it may be beyond some of today's youngsters who tend to lack patience with complex or older language.
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Format: Hardcover
With the surging popularity of Lemony Snicket's, "A Series of Unfortunate Events", the time has never been better to gently urge children towards those literary classics that sound so mightily similar to their beloved Baudelaire sagas. And of the great children's authors that employed direct narration, few are so wonderful yet rarely remembered as the fantastic Edith Nesbit. The woman who single-handedly redefined the whole kid-fantasy genre. As the Books of Wonder edition of "Five Children and It" is quick to point out, until Nesbit happened along, children's fantasy novels either took place in some "far-off fantasy-land (Alice to Wonderland; Dorothy to Oz)" or simply began and ended in their own magical world (The Princess and the Goblin, for example). No one had really explored normal every day children stumbling across magic. And that, of course, brings us to the fabulous, "Five Children and It". Written in Nesbit's trademark snarky Edwardian style, the tale remains as amusing to children today as it did back in the early 20th century. I remember it fondly from my own tender youth, and since I'm only 27 that should certainly say something.

Now there were once five city children. The eldest was Cyril and the youngest was simply referred to as "the Lamb", since it was only a baby and was dearly adored and spoiled by its family. One summer the children have the delightful opportunity to be left in a seaside house with only their servants to care for them. While exploring the grounds of their new home, the kids come across a strange furry creature in their local gravel pit. It has extended eyes like a snail, the ears of a bat, monkey hands and feet, and a big furry spiderish body. It is, of course, a Psammead (or Sand-fairy) and the kids have a chance to make one wish a day.
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Format: Paperback
I discovered this book in fourth or fifth grade and went on to patiently track down everything else by E. Nesbit. Rereading it, I'm still struck by her boundless imagination, sharp wit, and dead-on dialogue. The heroes of the story are real kids with real personalities - rare even now, much less in a Victorian children's novel. Many scenes make me laugh even at the upteenth reading, such as when the kids have to think up "Red Indian" names on the fly and come up with Panther, Squirrel, and Bobs of the Cape Mounted Police. I suppose some passages are a little sophisticated for some readers, but most kids today are already familiar with British turns of phrase through the Harry Potter books and should not have much trouble with this one. In fact, I would strongly recommend Five Children and It to anyone who enjoys the Harry Potter books, as it offers a similar blend of magic, adventure, humor, and memorable characters.
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