Saturday, October 18, 2008

E. Nesbit

One of my favorite writers is a British woman who died almost 100 years ago. Edith Nesbit Bland used the pen name E. Nesbit. She was born in 1858 and died in 1924. But during her lifetime she wrote some of the most delightful children's books imaginable.
E. Nesbit loved dragons and children (she had five of her own), so many of her books are about dragons and children.
The Deliverers of Their Country is a tale about Effie and Harry, a pair of siblings who live in a time when Britain has been overrun with dragons. With characteristic British pluck and determination, they investigate all sorts of possibilities in order to deliver their country from this plague.
Five Children and It concerns five siblings who accidentally discover a wish-granting sand fairy while on vacation in the country one summer. That may sound like incredible luck, but somehow the children's wishes tend to have unforeseen and not always happy consequences.
The Complete Book of Dragons is a collection of E. Nesbit's short stories about, you guessed it, children and dragons. They're perfect bedtime stories.
Lionel and the Book of Beasts concerns a boy who unexpectedly becomes king of his country at a very young age. Since the previous king, his great-great-great-great-great grandfather, loved books far more than regalia, Lionel investigates the library. He discovers a wonderful book called the Book of Beasts. When he opens the book, he finds that whatever creature is depicted on the page will pop out of the book and come to life! Which is lovely, until he lets the dragon loose.
E. Nesbit wrote many other books, all of which are superb. My all-time favorite is called Melisande -- and it doesn't even have any dragons in it.
Melisande is a princess who shortly after birth is cursed by an evil fairy that she will be bald! Her father the king eventually remembers that he had a wish given to him years ago. He obtains permission to transfer that wish to his daughter. She wishes, understandably, for golden hair a yard long that grows and inch every day and twice as fast when it is cut.
That creates enormous problems. It isn't long before Melisande's hair has become the chief export of her country in the form of stuffing for pillows, hair brooches and girdles. But the consequences of the foolish wish aren't overcome until a determined prince and a fairy get involved.
If you like imaginative and intelligent stories, read those of E. Nesbit, which can be found in the Juvenile Fiction section of the Children's Department at the library.

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