Five times three
Five Children and It is the first book in the Five Children trilogy, which continues with The Phoenix and the Carpet and concludes with The Story of the Amulet.
In The Phoenix and the Carpet the four children persuade their mother to buy an old carpet, said to belong to the King of Arabia. When the carpet is delivered the children unravel it to discover a large egg. After trying to take it back to the shopkeeper, Bob accidentally knocks the egg into the fire and the phoenix emerges after a sleep of 2000 years. Like the Psammead, the Phoenix can also grant wishes.
The Story of the Amulet is a tale of time travel and features an Egyptian bracelet whose other half is lost. By saying certain words the amulet becomes a gateway to the past and future and the children visit Pharaonic Egypt, Babylon, Caesar's Britain and a Utopian future to find the missing piece.
Parts of the story originally appeared in the Strand Magazine under the title The Psammead.
Especially for you
The book was introduced with a dedication to her son John Bland, "My Lamb, you are so very small, You have not learned to read at all. Yet never a printed book withstands. The urgence of your dimpled hands. So, though this book is for yourself, Let mother keep it on the shelf. Till you can read. O days that Pass, That day will come too soon, alas!"
About the author
Born in 1858, Edith Nesbit was the daughter of the head of an agricultural college. In 1880 she married journalist Hubert Bland. Although they were both members of the Fabian Society their marriage was an unhappy one. Hubert was a philanderer and a poor father to their children and so to support her family Nesbit began writing children's books. Amongst the many books that she wrote, she is probably best remembered for The Railway Children.
Up for it
Five Children and It was nominated for a BAFTA TV award.
Return of the Five Children
Such was the success of her adaptation of Five Children and it children's author Helen Cresswell wrote a sequel, Return of the Psammead, screened in 1993.
The Phoenix and the Carpet
The Children of E Nesbit's books had appeared on television before when The Phoenix and the Carpet was adapted for television as part of the BBC Classic Serials strand. It was broadcast in the regular Sunday teatime slot over eight weeks from 29th December 1976 to 16th February 1977.
After the success of Five Children and It in 1991 and the Return of the Psammead (1993), the BBC remade The Phoenix and the Carpet in 1997, with Helen Cresswell once again providing the script.
This version featured an all-star cast with David 'Poirot' Suchet as the voice of the Phoenix, Miriam Margolyes as Cook, Christopher Biggons as Mr Tonks, Jean 'Hilda Ogden' Alexander as Lily and Gemma 'Duchess of Duke Street' Jones as Mrs Bibble.
Eddie the Psammead
A big screen version of Five Children is due out in October 2004 with Eddie Izzard voicing the Psammead. Kenneth Branagh, Zoe Wannamaker, John Sessions and Norman Wisdom also feature.