Five Children and It
Reviewed date: 2009 Jun 19
I wish I'd read Five Children and It as a child. It's a magical little book. It reminds me of The Faraway Tree or The Wishing-Chair, but with a streak of realism that Enid Blighton's books never possessed.
The story is quite simple really. Five children, on holiday in the English countryside, find a sand-fairy in an old quarry. The Psammead, as he calls himself, grants wishes. He's not much of a genie, though: he is cross, grumpy, and rude. He grants wishes reluctantly, and his wishes only last until sunset. Still, the children should be able to have a lot of fun, right?
Not quite. The Psammead grants the wishes, but the children always end up in trouble. For example, they wish to be beautiful. The result: they are beautiful, but nobody recognizes them, so they are chased from their own house and spend the day hiding behind the hedges with no food. Another time they wish their baby brother would be loved by everyone: he is so loved that everyone tries to kidnap him, and he is nearly carried off by gypsies.
Every wish that the children make is an adventure, but this is scary business. This is the real world, and there are real dangers. The Psammead has no qualms about letting the children meet their doom: for example, he warns them that if they wish for wings, they had better not be flying when the sun goes down, or else their wings will disappear and they will fall to their death. The Psammead is no nursemaid, and the world is dangerous.
It's an exciting book, and my daughters enjoyed hearing it. They loved to hear how the children's wishes unexpectedly turn out to be dangerous or ill-advised, or just plain bizarre. They were occasionally confused by the British expressions, and they perhaps didn't understand some of the dated references--after all, who knows what a soda water siphon is anymore? But that's a minor quibble, and it doesn't interfere with the splendid story.