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Literature / The Story of the Treasure Seekers

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The Treasure Seekers is a juvenile by E. Nesbit.

The Bastables are a family of six;

  • Dora Bastable, the 'good big sister'.
  • Oswald Bastable, the oldest boy and 'head of the family' in his father's absence.
  • Dickie Bastable, Oswald's loyal shadow.
  • The Twins; tomboy Alice and sickly Noel
  • and Horace Octavius Bastable, understandably known to his siblings as H.O.
They live in a semi-detached on the Lewisham road - a suburb of London - with their father. Their mother died just a year or so ago and things have gone very wrong with their father's business and they have no money so the children decide to go treasure hunting to repair the fortunes of The House of Bastable. Hilarity Ensues

There are two sequels: The Wouldbegoods in which the well meaning Bastables wreck havoc trying to do good deeds; and The New Treasure Seekers in which they try various means to get money for the kindly and - they think - very poor lady they are staying with. As usual things never turn out as expected.

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The Treasure Seekers provides examples of:

  • The All-Concealing "I" - Attempted by the narrator, not very effectively; the narrator is a child and is only concealing their identity as a game for the reader.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling - H.O. works at being this
  • Author Avatar - In-universe; when the kids are alternating chapters of a serial story, Noel names the hero "Noeloninuris". When Oswald gets a chapter, he retcons the name to "Osrawalddo".
  • Blanket Fort - The Bastables build themselves one of these the day Oswald, Dickie and Alice decide to be detectives.
  • Cheerful Child - Despite losing their mother and being poor the young Bastables are relentlessly upbeat and not at all sorry for themselves. Most adults take to them - which is just as well.
  • Children Are Innocent - and maybe just a trifle dim and young for their ages - by 21st c. standards.
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  • Cool Uncle - dull Albert-Next-Door has the coolest uncle ever, the Bastables call him 'Albert's Uncle' and turn to him whenever things get completely out of control - in other words frequently.
  • Cowboys and Indians - The Bastables' version is to play highwaymen. They take Albert-Next-Door prisoner and hold him for ransom.
  • Curious as a Monkey - Dickie likes to take things apart to see how they work. Sometimes he succeeds in putting them back together.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Noel's solution to the family's cash flow problem is to find and marry a princess. On an outing to Blackheath he does exactly that.
  • Family Honor - Oswald especially often goes on about the 'honour' of the House of Bastable.
  • Free-Range Children - Is anybody keeping an eye on this bunch? Apparently not. Father is busy with his failing business and their 'general' or maid of all work is happy to get them out from underfoot.
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  • Growing Up Sucks - In Oswald's opinion it makes you dull and irritating - like Dora.
  • Innocent Inaccurate - The young Bastables clearly do not grasp the full direness of their father's situation or how it came about.
  • Mr. Imagination - Five of them to be exact. Dora, the eldest, is the only one with any kind of grip on reality. Of course this makes her a terrible wet-blanket in the eyes of her siblings.
  • Narrator All Along - Played for Laughs. The narrator keeps praising one of the main characters as being so clever and brave, and how it isn't his fault when things go wrong. Then the narrator begins forgetting to use the grammatical third person...
  • Nurse with Good Intentions - The kids decide they want to invent medicine. So they try goofing around in the cold until one of them gets sick. Eventually, one of them does and they try to give him all sorts of medicines... but none work and he just gets worse. Needless to say, the adult who discovers this mess is not amused.
  • Promoted to Parent - The Bastables' dying mother asked Dora to 'take care' of her younger siblings. She does her best but she's only a child herself and nobody listens to her anyway. This becomes a plot point in the chapter where the children try to earn money by selling wine.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang - The twins Alice and Noel couldn't be more different; she's a tomboy accepted as an equal by Oswald and Dickie but Noel is considered on of the 'little kids' being dreamy and rather sickly. Dora and Oswald, the two eldest, are a bit like this too; her all responsible and concerned about consequences and him impulsive and adventurous.
  • Snooping Little Kid - Alice, Dickie and especially Oswald get into terrible trouble when they play detective investigating the odd lights in the supposedly empty house next door.
  • Spoiled Brat - Albert-Next-Door is so this.
  • Team Mom - Dora tries to be this to her siblings, it seems to work with Alice and the younger boys but Oswald is resistant.
  • Unreliable Narrator - The story is narrated by one of the children, who, apart from attempting to shade things to present himself in a better light, frequently misunderstands the situations the children find themselves in.
  • Unto Us a Son and Daughter Are Born - Alice and Noel are twins.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy - The Bastables have read all the right kind of books - and imagine real life is like every one of them.
  • Young Entrepreneur - One of several ways the Bastables try to mend their family fortune.
  • Zany Scheme - ALL the ways the Bastables try to get treasure count as this.

The Wouldbegoods: Being the Further Adventures of the Treasure Seekers provides examples of:

  • Deadpan Snarker: The Reverend Mr. Ashleigh, brother of Albert's Uncle's Long-Lost, is oh so much this. The children don't quite know how to take it.
  • Relative Error: Lampshaded by the narrator.
    He might have known it was her brother, because in rotten grown-up books if a girl kisses a man in a shrubbery that is not the man you think she's in love with; it always turns out to be a brother.
  • Shout-Out: There's a scene in which the children attempt to act out part of The Jungle Book. It's worth noting that The Wouldbegoods was published just five years after The Jungle Book.
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