The Phoenix and The Carpet

by Edith Nesbit, published 1904

The carpet was sailing over rocks and rivers and trees and towns and farms and fields. It reminded all of them of a certain time they all had had wings… 

Phoenix and Carpet Children's bookEach time I read another children’s book by E. Nesbit, I am amazed at her consistent ability to come up with new and unusual events that keep me turning page after page. Truly the master (or mistress) of children’s fantasy, it’s easy to see how she influenced later writers such as Edward Eager. The ploy of having wishes granted and trying to cover them up from the adults in their lives adds to the delight of the book. In this book, I especially enjoyed the character of the immortal and legendary Phoenix. I felt as if I understood the bird for the first time.

Of all the Nesbit children’s books I’ve read so far, this one is the only one that seems a little dated, with its references to dark natives and the treatment of servants. That is a shortcoming. It makes me ponder what to do with classic books that no longer suit our understanding of humanity. However, if you can help your child put the book in a historical perspective, and bridge the cultural gap, then the majority of this children’s book is totally in keeping with any child’s imagination. As with her other books, the presence of the author’s voice speaking directly to the reader adds a little element of unexpected humor.

This children’s book is a follow-up to Five Children and It, but it is not really necessary to read them in order. The Phoenix and the Carpet is best for age 10 and up, and is definitely gender neutral, as the boys and girls play equal and substantial roles in the book. Also great for the grown-ups!