Five Children and It
is a novel by E. Nesbit
first published in 1902.
"It" is the Psammead, a "sand-fairy" with the power to grant wishes. The children discover it while playing in the gravel pit where it lives, and proceed to get into trouble with a succession of ill-considered wishes. Fortunately for them, the effects of each wish only last for a day — although that in itself sometimes leads to trouble.
It had two sequels: The Phoenix and the Carpet
(1904), in which the second-hand carpet bought for the childrens' nursery turns out to be a Flying Carpet
with the egg of The Phoenix
rolled up in it, and The Story of the Amulet
(1906), in which the children obtain an ancient Egyptian amulet that gives them to power to travel through time
.The Phoenix and the Carpet
was adapted for BBC TV in the 1970s.Five Children and It
and The Phoenix and the Carpet
were adapted for BBC TV in the 1990s, with scripts by Helen Cresswell. There was also The Return of the Psammead
, a new story by Cresswell in which a new group of children met the Psammead.
A more recent Film of the Book
of Five Children and It
was released in 2004.
Five Children and It provides examples of:
- Artifact of Attraction: The children accidentally wish their youngest sibling into this. Fortunately, it wears off at sunset, after a long day spent chasing after everyone who kidnapped him.
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Happens to one of the children when he wishes to be taller.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Forms most of the plot.
- Chance Activation: While everyone tries to figure out how to open the door, the baby is playing with the lock. The door swings open.
- Digging to China: The children find the Psammead when they are trying to dig a hole to Australia.
- Distinguishing Mark: Played with. After the children foolishly wish that everyone would want their little brother and then have to chase after everyone who kidnaps him, one character claims him as his long-lost son because he doesn't have a birthmark.
- Known Only by Their Nickname: The baby, usually referred to as "the Lamb" or "Baby".
- Literal Genie: The Psammead.
- Overnight Age-Up: The older four get annoyed with how they have to chase their baby brother around all the time, so they wish him into a grown-up. Unfortunately, he didn't learn all of the lessons associated with growing up, such as not being a total prat, and turns out to be even more annoying this way.
- Sequel Hook: At the end of the book, when the Psammead departs, the narrator assures the readers that the children will meet the Psammead again, but refuses to divulge when or where this will be. The answer is revealed in The Story of the Amulet.
- So Beautiful, It's a Curse: The children get a wish to "be as beautiful as the day" but nobody recognises them, and they aren't even allowed into their own house. (Fortunately, the wish has a built-in time limit.)
- Team Mom: Anthea.
- Team Pet: The Psammead.
- Winged Humanoid: One of the wishes the kids get is to have wings.
The Phoenix and the Carpet provides examples of:
The Story of the Amulet provides examples of:
- All Just a Dream: After the Babylon queen visits, things get out of hand and a lot of people are killed. Someone says that it's all a dream, to which another person replies that he wishes it was a dream... and luckily the Psammead is on hand to grant that wish.
- Have We Met Yet?: In one of their trips to the past, the children meet the Phoenix, who doesn't recognise them because it hasn't met them yet.
- I Gave My Word: The children and an Egyptian priest give their words: the priest by a secret name on a certain altar, and the children say they will do it, which means the same. The priest then declares that there is no such name, so he is not bound, but the Psammead knows that there is, and threatens to call upon it.
- Mage in Manhattan: In Chapter 8, a queen from ancient Babylon (who doesn't have magical powers, though they do exist in the novel) ends up in contemporary London.
- Men Don't Cry: The two boys seem to think this, although they do cry after their father leaves.
- Orichalcum: A metal used by the Atlanteans.
- Time Travel