Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Be careful what you wish for

the book:

Five Children and It by E.Nesbit

published 1902   chapter 9

 
They all wished hard, for the sight was enough to dismay the most heartless. They all wished so hard, indeed, that they felt quite giddy and almost lost consciousness; but the wishing was quite vain, for, when the wood ceased to whirl round, their dazed eyes were riveted at once by the spectacle of a very proper-looking young man in flannels and a straw hat—a young man who wore the same little black mustache which just before they had actually seen growing upon the Baby's lip. This, then, was the Lamb—grown up! Their own Lamb! It was a terrible moment. The grown-up Lamb moved gracefully across the moss and settled himself against the trunk of the sweet chestnut. He tilted the straw hat over his eyes. He was evidently weary. He was going to sleep. The Lamb—the original little tiresome beloved Lamb often went to sleep at odd times and in unexpected places. Was this new Lamb in the grey flannel suit and the pale green necktie like the other Lamb? or had his mind grown up together with his body?




observations: A second visit to this splendid book. One of the children, annoyed with their baby brother, has thoughtlessly said ‘I wish … he would grow up’ in front of the sandfairy, the Psammead, with predictable results. Wishes are never really allowed to work out too well in story books, and this is no exception, but the moral isn’t hammered home too hard. The Lamb is rather unfortunate in his name – the book isn’t nearly as sentimental as that makes it sound – but not as unfortunate as his sister Anthea, who has the eye-catching nickname of Panty. (She could make friends with Titty from Swallows and Amazons, and form a League of Misnamed Heroines).

The deadpan jokes are as appealing to adults as to children:

"Autre temps autres mœurs," said the creature.

"Is that the Ninevite language?" asked Anthea, who had learned no foreign language at school except French.


The blog is second to none in our
admiration for another great children’s author, Frances Hodgson Burnett – a close contemporary of Nesbit – but you can’t imagine FHB making a joke like that. Nesbit is much funnier, more ironic, more modern.

Links up with: The grown-up baby resembles
this young man from Saki. The Three Men in a Boat are nattily dressed. Jacqueline Wilson wrote a lovely modern day follow-up, Four Children and It.

The picture is of the silent movie star
Buster Keaton. He looks a lot like Sheldon Cooper from the TV programme Big Bang Theory.

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