Cyril, Anthea, Robert, Jane, and their baby brother, the Lamb, who were last seen in Five Children and It are back for another adventure in The Phoenix and the Carpet. This adventure starts as the children are playing in the nursery with some fireworks and they accidentally burn the rug. (Wait a minute … children in a nursery are playing with fireworks? No one has a problem with this? … We have to remember that a ‘nursery’ could have been used for many years, and not just for infancy and this was a very different time when Edith Nesbit wrote these books more than 100 years ago.)
The replacement carpet was delivered the next day after their father went out to acquire a new rug. As they unrolled it, an egg fell out. The children, being good and honest children, try to return the egg to she shop where father had purchased the carpet, but the owner refused to acknowledge that anything would be inside his clean and proper rug. So they children now had an egg, which accidentally rolled into the fire and then hatched a Phoenix – which, to no one’s surprise it seems, spoke to the children.
The Phoenix tells the children his story which includes how he came to be wrapped in the carpet and reveals that the carpet is a magic carpet which can fly and transport the children anywhere they can think to wish to go. The children put a lot of faith in the trustworthiness of the Phoenix and the carpet as they swoosh off to adventure, only to discover that it isn’t quite as smooth sailing as they had presumed.
I like Edith Nesbit’s books. I don’t know how long ago it was that I first discovered her work, but I think Nesbit’s name deserves to be as well remembered as Lewis Carroll’s or Frances Hodgson Burnett’s, but unless you are really a devotee of children’s literature, Nesbit’s name is slightly forgotten, despite the constant reprinting of her books.
Dover Publications has reprinted the original 1904 work here, unabridged and with a selection of the original drawings for the book by H.R. Millar. “A selection.” I wish I knew what that meant. There are 21 drawings here, to go with the twelve chapters. These pen&ink drawings are fantastic and I’ve always appreciated this period when a few drawings were included in a book like this. If there are more that would go along with this book, I’d love to see them.
The story is really fun. It’s adventurous and quaint (in a good way). This is the perfect book to read aloud to a child at bedtime – particularly if that child is too old for picture books, beyond chapter books, but maybe not ready for the heavier themed stories in longer works. Even with something like children playing with fireworks in the nursery (which all seems very natural when you read it) this is a good choice for young readers.
Looking for a good book? The Phoenix and the Carpet by E. Nesbit is a delightful, whimsical, fantasy tale of children exploring England (and beyond) on a magic carpet, with a talking Phoenix as their guide.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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The Phoenix and the Carpet
author: E. Nesbit
series: Five Children #2
publisher: Dover Publications
paperback, 272 pages