Posted by: Sally Ingraham | February 26, 2009

SRC: The Children of Green Knowe, Half Magic – plus The Railway Children

I am grateful that my library has the whole Green Knowe series, but I will have to start utilizing the inter-library loan system to get more of Edward Eager or E. Nesbit’s books. I read Half Magic, The Children of Green Knowe, and The Railway Children over the past couple of days and they were so delightful that I really will have to read some more.

Green KnoweThe Children of Green Knowe by L. M. Boston – #1
I was worried that I wouldn’t find the Green Knowe books a deliciously spooky as I had when I was ten. The other night, tucked into bed with the house quiet, reading about the ghostly visitations of the three children to Tolly, and the horrible cursed tree called Green Noah, I had to stop and relish the tingling down my spine. I wasn’t scared, but I did cuddle farther down into my blankets and send a sharp look in the direction of a clicking at my window.

The mood the book evoked in me was every bit as good as I remembered, and although Tolly seemed very, very young this time around, I found him so darling and inquisitive that I wished I was his great-grandmother in the story so that I could have him about the house.

The Treasure of Green Knowe is next, and I have to remember to run downstairs before I leave here today and fetch it!

Half MagicHalf Magic by Edward Eager – #1
This book was the one I strove so hard to remember, and of the books that the search accidentally brought back to light, it was the one that upon re-reading wasn’t as fabulous as I remembered. It wasn’t bad by any means, it was just kind of silly and seemed to copy E. Nesbit’s work a little too closely. Of course, this was done intentionally, as Eager was a huge fan of E. Nesbit and actually has his characters mention her books when they are longing for adventures of their own. I guess, then, that he can be forgiven.

Reading Eager and then reading The Railway Children by E. Nesbit did point out one large difference between them, which is that Eager is just not as good a writer. His characters were comparatively flat and their adventures using the magic…nickel?…are fairly standard fare. Perhaps “silly” was too strong though. Half Magic was fun, and I won’t mind very much at all to see what Jane, Mark, Katherine, and Martha get up to next.

Knight’s Castle is to follow, if I can get my hands on it any time soon.

The Railway ChildrenThe Railway Children by E. Nesbit
This one doesn’t count for the Serial Reading Challenge 2009 because it’s not part of any of Nesbit’s series’. It was the only Nesbit book my library had though, and I am very glad I read it. Considered by some to be Nesbit’s best book, it is about the adventures of three British children living in the country. There family has fallen upon hard times, and their father has had to go off mysteriously. The children spend their time watching the trains go by, befriending the Porter and the Station Master, getting in and out of scrapes and generally having a good time. There is no magic involved, except the delicious magic of childhood and friendship and imagination all working together.

What impressed me the most, as an older reader, was the quality of Nesbit’s writing. Although she addresses the reader frequently (even using “gentle reader” once, gag) and makes some asides about how she feels toward some of the characters, falling into the category of the “talky” author, I didn’t mind this time. I was too interested in Roberta, Peter, and Phyllis and what they would do next, for they were so alive and present to me, right down to their dirty handkerchiefs and flannel petticoats.

Something about how they spoke was what really got to me. Only Brittish turns of phrase from the turn of the century, perhaps, but used to vibrantly that I could hear them speaking as if they were in the room. I keep trying to find a nice quote from the book, but I get reading, looking for the funny words, and suddenly I’m pages farther. I can’t capture it in only a few sentences because everything the children say is tempered by their personality and whatever their mood is currently – just like real people. I almost have to believe that Nesbit knew these children.

Anyway, I’m glad to have been re-introduced to them, and am eager to find more of Nesbit’s books. This little introduction has made me SO excited to get my hands on The Five Children and It, or The Treasure Seekers. In fact I should stop messing around here, and go bug my librarians to inter-library loan me half a dozen different things!

One last note: The 1992 edition of The Railway Children that I found has fabulous illustrations by Dinah Dryhurst. If I were to ever purchase the book I think I would want a copy of this edition. 🙂

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