E. Nesbit: The Story of the Amulet



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Definitely my least favorite of the three the first books being Five Children and It and The Phoenix and the Carpet By the internal chronology the kids are maybe a year and a half older than when the trilogy started but they haven t matured even a little bit and Jane the youngest seems to have egressed Or maybe she eally is eight and Nesbit finally figured out how eight year olds talk and act Hint They e just learning to be ational Her fear of going into strange and potentially dangerous societies seems extreme not because she exaggerates the dangers but because she s handled other crises far calmly What I like about this book is the subplot with the learned gentleman Jimmy whose association with the children saves him from his isolation and eminds him of what it was like to be a child Unlike the other adults in the series Jimmy has no problem playing their games and envies their imagination ather than telling them to grow up even though his belief that it s all a strange dream nearly gets everyone killed when he insists on staying to see the drowning of Atlantis If I were making a movie of this book I d beef up his ole to provide of a connection between the actual time travel the Amulet allows and the belief in the miraculous that is the heritage of any human being who chooses to take it E Nesbit wrote a ton of great children s books that are sadly neglected though Puffin Classics appears to be eprinting them I generally don t find them in large bookstores but have had several lucky finds in local esale bookstores And of course there s always Project Gutenberg The Story of the Amulet is about Cyril Anthea Robert and Jane the same four children who are featured in Five Children and It the fifth child was their baby brother and The Phoenix and the Carpet In this book their old friend the Psammead the It of the first book mentioned turns up in a pet shop in London The kids escue it and it points them toward an Amulet for sale in a nearby curiosity shop The Amulet is in fact a magic amulet from ancient times and it has the power to give the children their heart s desireAlas what they have purchased is only half the Amulet However even the half has powers one of which is transportation through space and time So the children embark on a uest to find the other half and the connecting pin so that they may have their hearts desire which is the safe eturn of their parents and baby brother Their mother has been ill and is off ecuperating and their father is a war correspondent Meanwhile they are living in London with their old nurse I think I am not giving anything away when I say that the children have several exciting adventures and finally ecover the Amulet and their family membersNesbit is always an entertaining ead sometimes so as an adult I d ecommend her to anyone who is looking for something elaxing and amusing Not good The kids and I eally enjoyed Nesbit s first two books with these characters They were essentially a series of corrupted wish stories moral tales but with a bit of cheeky subversiveness and plenty of satirical commentary for us grown ups This third book evisits the Psammead who the children find for sale in a pet store but he no longer grants them wishes he does however feel the obligation to grant wishes to anyone within earshot who might give voice to a wish and this does lend some amusement Instead the central object of the story a half amulet discovered by the children becomes a sort of time travel device sending the children across the world and history as they search for the other halfWhile this should make for as many amusing adventures as the first two books instead the book feels weighed down by its premise than buoyed up It also seemed that Nesbit never could uite nail down the mechanics of the amulet For example once the other half is found it turns out to be the same half which somehow creates a whole but then there s a third half yeah you ead that ight somewhere along the way too There is still some fun to be had for example when the children bring a Babylonian ueen back to London and much chaos ensues In fact I would not be surprised to learn that this portion inspired a smiliar seuence in CS Lewis s The Magician s Nephew given that Lewis eferences Nesbit s Bastable children in the very first lines of that book The upstairs neighbor who gets dragged along on several travels might even be where Lewis ultimately got the inspiration for Uncle Andrew Except Jimmy is pleasant and kindOther elements suggest a bit sophistication in egard to the depiction of time travel than one might expect from a century old book A chapter where the children decide to explore a futuristic London is particularly fasci. At the end of Five Children and It the five children promised not to ask the Psammead for another wish as long as they lived but expressed a half wish to see it again some time They find 'it' again in a pet shop in Camden Town and their magic.

Nating as it gives us a glimpse of how Nesbit saw what the future might hold Those portions aside this book is still not nearly as good as the two which preceded it Much of the humor charm and satire of the first two books which played out in the interactions between the children and the Psammead or Phoenix is missing here and the esolution is the sort of freaky weird mysticism that was popular in Nesbit s day Unless you e set on eading all three books this one can be skipped without eally missing out This was one of my favorite books when I was growing up I decided to e ead it as part of my esearch for the memoir I am writing I have a tattered copy of the 1965 Puffin paperback edition which came free with any purchase at a used bookstore The pages are yellowed but they are all there as well as the perfect illustrations by H R MillerThe Story of the Amulet is a seuel to The Five Children and It which I also ead long ago But the Amulet always stands out in my memory because I discovered it on the shelves of our local library in Princeton NJ where our mom took us every two weeks Upon eading it I had my mind blown for perhaps the first time in my life I wanted to see if I could figure out why and I didThere are four English children in this story who find themselves spending their summer holidays in a dreary old house on Fitzroy Street London near the British Museum in the care of their old Nurse Father has gone to Manchuria to eport on the war and Mother plus The Lamb the new baby in the family is in Madeira ecovering from an illness When I first ead this book probably at the age of nine I had no idea about any of these places But the writing is like a spell that just pulled me in to these children s lives their elationships with each other and of course their adventures I am sure I had already ead The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe at least once so I was in a sense primed but Nesbit is a magician whereas C S Lewis only wished he wasBecause what entranced me back then and again now was the magic It is magic the way children do magic fully ensconced in their imaginations In fact most grownups are at least annoyed by such a degree of imagination and some are truly alarmed I ecall being told as a child that something I said was all in my imagination and thinking Where else would it be Children know full well what is imagination and what is eality plus are able to move freely between the two Such is the case with Anthea Cyril Robert and Jane though Jane being the youngest is the most easily frightened and sometimes protests when the magic gets to be too much Yes That is just the way it was in my lifeSo there is an amulet but the children only have half of it The Psammead a sand fairy who helplessly grants wishes and was the It of Five Children and It eappears and though the children had promised the Psammead at the end of the previous summer not to ask for another wish as long as they lived he does inform them that should they find the other half of the amulet they can ealize their hearts desireAfter learning to use the amulet s magic they are off to ancient Egypt Babylon Atlantis etc All these places are dangerous in the extreme but full of wondrous delights as well Again as a child I knew virtually nothing about these places yet they were so eal to me back then as I ead I grew up to love books about Atlantis and Egypt and with a hunger to know the history of such ancient times That is truly magic on many levelsSince I began working at Once Upon A Time Bookstore which serves a whole community of children young mothers teachers and grandparents I have ediscovered children s literature and much of it is still great eading but Nesbit is the inventor of the children s adventure story She influenced C S Lewis P L Travers Mary Poppins Diana Wynne Jones and J K Rowling but being the originator she is still the best If you could be granted your heart s desire what would you wish for A magical amulet takes the children from Victorian London to ancient civilizations far distant in time My favorite Atlantis How the Psammead came to London a story with a bite All ight said the Psammead in offended tones I m sure I don t want to tell you a long tale A man caught me and I bit him And he put me in a bag with a dead hare and a dead abbit And he took me to his house and put me out of the bag into a basket with holes that I could see through And I bit him again And then he brought me to this city which I am told is called the Modern Babylon though it s not a bit like the old Babylon and he sold me to the man you bought me from and then I bit them both Now what s your news There s not uite so much biting in our story said Cyril egretfully in. Adventures start over again 'It' leads them to a magic amulet half of it actually which they use it to try and find the other half It takes them back to ancient Egypt and Babylon The ueen of Babylon visits them in London bringing all her anc.

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Fact there isn t any The magic beginsPlease we want to know where the other half of the charm is The part of the Amulet which is lost said the beautiful voice was broken and ground into the dust of the shrine that held it It and the pin that joined the two halves are themselves dust and the dust is scattered over many lands and sunk in many seas Oh I say murmured Robert and a blank silence fell Then it s all up said Cyril at last it s no use our looking for a thing that s smashed into dust and the dust scattered all over the place If you would find it said the voice You must seek it where it still is perfect as ever The first adventure in time and spaceHere was a horrible position Four English children whose proper date was AD 1905 and whose proper address was London set down in Egypt in the year 6000 BC with no means whatever of getting back into their own time and place The learned gentleman I ll go to Babylon if you like said Jane abruptly and the others hastened to say Done before she should have time to change her mind Ah said the learned gentleman smiling ather sadly one can go so far in dreams when one is young He sighed again and then adding with a labored briskness I hope you ll have a a jolly game he went into his oom and shut the door Escaping from a Babylonian dungeon UR HEKAU SETCHEH she cried in a fervent voice Oh Nisroch servant of the Great Ones come and help us There was a waiting silence Then a cold blue light awoke in the corner where the straw was and in the light they saw coming towards them a strange and terrible figure I won t try to describe it because the drawing shows it exactly as it was and exactly as the old Babylonians carved it on their stones so that you can see it in our own British Museum at this day I will just say that it had eagle s wings and an eagle s head and the body of a manIt came towards them strong and unspeakably horrible The Fall of AtlantisThey could not bear to look down for the wave had broken on the face of the town sweeping over the uays and docks overwhelming the great storehouses and factories tearing gigantic stones from forts and bridges and using them as battering ams against the temples Great ships were swept over the oofs of the houses and dashed down halfway up the hill among uined gardens and broken buildings The water ground brown fishing boats to powder on the golden oofs of Palaces Then the wave swept back towards the seaThe hills around were black with people fleeing from the villages to the mountains And even as they fled thin smoke broke from the great white peak and then a faint flash of flame Then the volcano began to throw up its mysterious fiery inside parts The earth trembled ashes and sulphur showered down a ain of fine pumice stone fell like snow on all the dry land The elephants from the forest ushed up towards the peaks great lizards thirty yards long broke from the mountain pools and ushed down towards the sea The snows melted and ushed down first in avalanches then in oaring torrents Great ocks cast up by the volcano fell splashing in the sea miles awayOh this is horrible cried Anthea Come home come home The end of the dream gasped the learned gentleman Drama with VictorianEdwardian accentsThere was an awful silence Then Pharaoh spoke Take the sacred house of the beast from them he said and imprison all Tonight after supper it may be our pleasure to see magic Guard them well and do not torture them yet Oh dear sobbed Jane as they were led away I knew exactly what it would be Oh I wish you hadn t Shut up silly said Cyril You know you WOULD come to Egypt It was your own idea entirely Shut up It ll be all ight I thought we should play ball with ueens sobbed Jane and have no end of larks And now everything s going to be perfectly horrid How coinage was introduced to ancient Egypt And here s twopence for yourself The soldier looked at the twopence What s this he saidRobert explained how much simpler it was to pay money for things than to exchange them as the people were doing in the market Later on the soldier gave the coins to his captain who later still showed them to Pharaoh who of course kept them and was much struck with the idea That was eally how coins first came to be used in Egypt You will not believe this I daresay but eally if you believe the est of the story I don t see why you shouldn t believe this as well Traveling into the far past Where are we whispered Anthea And when whispered Robert This is some shrine near the beginnings of belief said the Egyptian shivering Take the Amulet and come away It is cold here in the morning of the world Follow the four Victorian children as they explore the ancient past while seeking their heart s delightEnjo. Ient customs with her which is awkward They visit the lost continent of Atlantis They see Julius Caesar in the flesh but none of these adventures un smoothly and if they forget the 'word of power' or lose the amulet what would happen to them.

Edith Nesbit married name Edith Bland; 15 August 1858 – 4 May 1924 was an English author and poet; she published her books for children under the name of E NesbitShe wrote or collaborated on over 60 books of fiction for children several of which have been adapted for film and television She was also a political activist and co founded the Fabian Society a socialist organisation later connec