Okay, I know I went on a bit about The Railway Children by E. Nesbit, but I think I may like The Story of the Treasure Seekers even better. Edith Nesbit is quickly climbing the ranks among my favorite authors (although no one can contend with Elisabeth Elliot, Charles Dickens and C.S. Lewis). There were so many times when I cracked up out loud while reading this book, that my neighbors probably thought I was crazy. Once it was after Josh fell asleep next to me, and I could not stop laughing -- which woke him up, which he was not thrilled about. (I will share what part that was later).
The Story of the Treasure Seekers is about the 6 Bastable children (in England, late 19th century). I have always loved stories about kids with lots of siblings. This book is written in 1st person from the vantage point of one of the boys, but Nesbit creatively makes the writer attempt to write in 3rd person, not wanting to reveal which of the children he is. It is clear before too long, however, precisely who the writer is, which adds to the wit of the story throughout. The child telling the story clearly favors one sibling's viewpoint on everything (his own) and consistently forgets not to say "I" right after he has told what happened in 3rd person. You will absolutely adore this child, though. His own chivalry, character and bravery speak for itself, even with him tooting his own horn a bit.
What utterly endeared me to these children, however, was their propensity to imagine, pretend and act like characters from books (the writer particularly points out, however, his exasperation with children who play act beginning with statements such as "I'm pretending to be. . . " I felt this as well as a child! My siblings and I never told one another that we were pretending, we would simply state who we were: "I'm Princess Leia" or simply "I'm her" -- which is one of the all-time best games, easily played with a book of Norman Rockwell pictures or just your new J. Crew catalog . . . but I digress). It seems these children get all their ideas from books, and are forever quoting them and speaking in dramatic terms quite constantly. Which of course is hilarious!
Before I give you a couple excerpts that I found particularly funny, I do want to share my one reservation. There are a couple of less-than-positive references to other ethnicities by the children or other characters in the stories, especially Native Americans (saying things like "Red Indian" with typical stereotypes of that era). I would certainly not throw this book away because of these minor infractions; for one thing, British children over a hundred years ago were not regularly taught about God's glorious design for the nations. This was Imperial England, where the sun never set, and a gentleman was thought well of if he could make his fortunes in the conquered land of India (consequently, the children get very mixed up about an Uncle they have who is called "Indian". It seems he has simply lived in India a great deal of his life, but they don't understand this and ask him lots of questions about beavers and tipis). If this were a new book, I would not be able to understand such an issue. But as it is, I would use this opportunity to point out to my children how one might speak well of all ethnicities.
One of my favorite characters is the brother Noel (I believe you emphasize the first syllable). He is the most dramatic of the siblings, and a poet. He decides he could try to sell some of his poetry to recover his father's lost fortune (which is the purpose of the whole story -- his other option is find a princess to marry . . . I think Noel is 8). The poems were what made me laugh out loud and wake Josh up. Here's the excerpt:
"'What was Noel's plan?' Alice asked.
"'A Princess or a poetry book,' said Noel sleepily. He was lying on his back on the sofa, kicking his legs. 'Only I shall look for the princess all by myself. But I'll let you see her when we're married.'
"'Have you got enough poetry to make a book?' Dicky asked that, and it was rather sensible of him, because when Noel came to look there were only seven of his poems that any of us could understand. There was the 'Wreck of the Malabar' and the poem he wrote when Eliza took us to hear the Reviving Preacher, and everybody cried, and Father said it must have been the Preacher's eloquence.
"So Noel wrote:
O Eloquence and what art thou?
Ay what art thou? because we cried
And everybody cried inside
When they came out their eyes were red
And it was your doing Father said.
"Besides this there were the 'Lines on a Dead Black Beetle That Was Poisoned':
Beetle how I weep to see
Thee lying on thy poor back!
It is so very sad indeed.
You were so shiny and black.
I wish you were alive again
But Eliza says wishing it is nonsense and a shame. "
Probably the funniest chapter is "Castilian Amoroso" where they send in money in a response to an advertisement that promises you can make 2 pounds a week in your spare time. What arrives is a bottle of sherry that you might use to give samples and try to sell orders. The children themselves are teetotalers, they say, but they try to get anyone who visits the house to buy some (which reminds me of when my sister and I with our friend Vanessa tried to get our neighbors to buy some cheap brand of pop). So funny!
Finally, here is a link I found where you can read the whole book on line! Here you go, Annie Meade! (though I prefer the paper copy, at only $4.99, available at Blue Kangaroo Books, or the store I work in now).