by E. Nesbit, first published 1902
“…the children had been in London for two years, without so much as once going to the seaside even for a day by an excursion train, and so the White House seemed to them a sort of Fairy Palace set down in an Earthly Paradise. For London is like prison for children, especially if their relations are not rich…”
From the very opening pages, Nesbit has us, the reader, firmly in her grip. Right away, you picture the children so eager to be free of the confines of their city life, and you know something interesting will happen. I have yet to run across another master storyteller like Nesbit. Her style may be widely imitated, but she is amazing. And this children’s book is no exception. I might say after having read three of her children’s books so far, I like this one almost the best.
One thing Nesbit does exceedingly well is to keep the action moving. The children meet It within the first 3 pages! Talk about not wasting time with prologue, which, according to my friend Sarah, does not work for today’s millennial children. And yet, Nesbit wrote this children’s book over a hundred years ago. Go figure!
The second thing I love about her books is her humor. She is present as the storyteller, constantly adding little side-remarks and humor. For example, she points out a moral and then is embarrassed that she actually did that. The reader feels like she is there in the book, talking to you as she tells the story. Amazing.
Finally, Nesbit knows how to mix fantasy with reality, and then… use it to teach wonderful lessons. Every adventure the children have falls apart, and yet, they seem so wonderful.. if only they would work. Yet every lesson is a useful one as well.
I could go on and on. Rather than do that, I just encourage you to read her yourself. This is also suitable for a read-aloud, as it is quite fun even for younger ones. And again, with all of her books, they are out of copyright, so please choose your version carefully.