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[Comments] (5) Five Children and It: I forgot all about this book until it came up in the Gutenberg feed. The sequels are also in the foggy swamps of the public domain.

My mother read me this book, and at least one of the sequels, when I was young. Man, she must have read to me for years because we went through The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, the Narnia books, these books, and who knows what others, all presumably before I started reading at that level myself.

Anyway, it's a really fun book, though looking at it now I see a Victorian subtext of "Don't go around wishing for things to be different than they are!" Well, it's not really fair to malign the Victorians for that subtext, since it's the subtext of any wishing story, from old genie folktales to contemporary time-travel movies. The only thing I can think of that doesn't have this subtext is the wishing in Nethack.

PS: There was also a similar book, a lot more recent, also British, which had some siblings finding a pink creature that had grown in toxic waste. I mainly remember it because the book mentioned the "loo", and for a long time afterwards I thought that bathrooms in England had a strange device called a "loo" that nobody else had. Has anyone else read this book?

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Posted by Brendan at Fri Dec 16 2005 20:13

Oh, man! E. Nesbit! For some reason I always pictured them taking place in like the 1940s.

I don't think I've read the toxic-waste pseudosequel, but I did read a pseudosequel called The Well-Wishers which explicitly paid tribute to E. Nesbit (ie "the children had all read and loved those wonderful books by E. Nesbit"). Actually, I think I read more Edward Eager books than E. Nesbit books.

E. Nesbit in the public domain! I wonder when the Disney version will come out.

Posted by Factitious at Sat Dec 17 2005 00:28

Nethack does at least have the subtext "Don't wish for more wishes." Unless you're in wizard mode.

Posted by Leonard at Sat Dec 17 2005 13:11

"Dear sir, I am tired of your stories about living in the country; I wish you would fall down a well. Signed, a well-wisher."

Posted by Tim May at Sat Dec 17 2005 15:29

Anyway, it's a really fun book, though looking at it now I see a Victorian subtext of "Don't go around wishing for things to be different than they are!"
Given that Nesbit was a socialist radical in an open marriage, it's a little strange to see her as a defender of the Victorian status quo. I think we have to blame this on the fundamental nature of wishing stories, as you say, or on what the market would accept. Her politics don't come out much in her children's books, AFAICR (haven't read them for years), but there's a bit in The Story of the Amulet where they travel into the gleaming utopian future.

Posted by Kevan at Sun Dec 18 2005 20:57

There was a film last year, with Eddie Izzard busking it rather embarrassingly as a CGI It.

Nethack also has the subtext of "Don't push your luck.", but that's probably just because I've not read the spoilers closely enough.

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