Last weekend, I scoured the Kindle Popular Classics in search of something good to read. Paging through, I spied a familiar children’s author, E. (Edith) Nesbit. I had read and enjoyed The Enchanted Castle as a child, but her other titles hadn’t been available at our library. Out of curiosity, I downloaded The Railway Children.
I have no idea what age group the book was originally intended for (I would guess second-graders), but now it would definitely be considered Middle Grade (9-12 year olds). Written in 1906, the language is somewhat dated, but it’s interesting to note that Ms. Nesbit was ahead of her time in style, employing minimal dialogue tags. I am several chapters into the book, and so far have only seen “asked,” “said,” and “cried.” The use of adverbs is limited, as well, although adjectives are used freely. So far, other than a red-haired maid, there have been few descriptions of the characters. I know how old everyone is, what their names and nicknames are, and have a general impression of the clothing/setting/era, but Stephen King would be proud.
Nesbit was one of the first writers to incorporate magical events into the lives of otherwise realistic characters. In fact, she was quite a renowned author in her day, and her work heavily influenced other authors of the time, including C.S. Lewis and Edward Eager, as well as more modern authors such as J. K. Rowling.
Not unusual for a writer in any era, she had an interesting personal life. Ms. Nesbit was born and raised in England, and her father died when she was four. Her family moved frequently throughout her childhood. She didn’t marry her husband, Hubert Bland, until she was obviously pregnant with their first baby. In addition to the three children they had together, Mr. Bland had a long time affair with another woman, and Edith raised their two children, as well. She and her husband were extremely active in politics.
Although her lifestyle was far from exemplary, it did not seem to affect her popularity as a children’s writer. Some of her more famous titles were, The Story of the Treasure Seekers, Five Children and It, The House of Arden, The Railway Children and The Enchanted Castle, many of which are available on Kindle Popular Classics (for free), and at Amazon.com.
Try one — they’re good.