Synopsis: 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. Never out of print since 1902. The Introduction to this edition examines Nesbit’s life and her reading, showing the change in childrens’ literature from Victorian times.
For the Writer: This book is a classic for a reason; it is seamlessly written and draws you into the children’s world as if the reader were a Bastable sibling . The writing is plain in the sense that it strives for what one author noted as the goal for all writers, clarity.
Compared to the trumped up, hyped up and generally ramped up language in many middle grade fiction books circulating today, Five Children and It is comparatively plain. But for E. Nesbit, like author C.S. Lewis, the story is paramount. Get out of the way and tell it plainly.
There seems to be an operational formula whereby an author, who is striving to be first and foremost clear, often writes an original and enduring story. Her story lives on; it is not undermined by the short-lived writing styles that come and go like dated TV sitcoms.
There is some irony in the comparison of an author who strives to be original in her language, whose work quickly becomes dated and deemed unoriginal and an author who does not pervade her writing with a characteristically flamboyant style, a writer who has bowed to the story, so to speak, yet is lauded in years to come as having written a lasting tale told in a way which only that particular author could.
In other words, writing for clarity, which seems much too general a route to originality, achieves just that, while writing to be original, which seems a specific way to target originality, misses the mark.
Robust language will not revive a cadaver.