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10-year-old Philip Haldane doesn't remember his parents, but he has something almost as good: his half-sister Helen, 20 years older, who has raised him, home-schooled him, and thought up many wonderful games to play. He is "my Pippin," "my boy of boys," and he can't imagine any better life than the one they have in their little red-roofed house. Then Helen meets a former beau who has recently lost his wife, and before Philip quite knows what's happening, they're engaged. Not surprisingly, Philip's not eager to share her with anyone--or to be friends with his new brother-in-law's daughter, Lucy, who's about his own age. So, when the happy couple go off to the Continent for their honeymoon, he has to find a way to keep himself occupied--and so he does, by constructing a city of books, candlesticks, toy bricks, dominoes, and anything else he can find on the library table. But the city turns out to have a life of its own--not to mention inhabitants who decide that Philip is to be the Deliverer of their country, which demands that he attempt the accomplishment of the seven great deeds." And so he and Lucy set out on a long adventure through lands far and near.
This lesser-known book by the beloved author of the "Five Children" and "Treasure-Seekers" series is the first one I've read that has a flavor very similar to that of L. Frank Baum's Oz, and youngsters who've enjoyed that famous land are sure to like it. Nesbit's imagination is unbounded and Philip and Lucy are real children--not paragons--who gradually learn to understand and like each other and work together to carry out their labors.
This fine children's book is valuable one's whole life long, for its wit and wisdom and sheer charm. Be aware that in this edition the illustrations have been shrunk to one quarter their original size. Unfortunately that loses the marvelous details of the originals.