First published 1902 by T. Fisher Unwin
Published in Puffin Books, 1959. Reissued 1996, 2004.
Five children - Cyril, Anthea, Robert, Jane and their baby brother - find a fairy while digging in the disused gravel-pit behind their new house. At least, they call it a fairy, because that's what it called itself, 'but it was not at all like any fairy you ever saw or heard of or read about.'
It was a Psammead - a sand fairy, so old that it had seen the days when Megatheriums walked the earth and Pterodactyls flew in the sky. The Psammead had a round tubby body like a spider's, and was covered with soft, brown fur. It had eyes like a snail's, and ears like those of a bat. And it could make wishes come true.
But the Psammead is a grumpy, cantankerous, complaining old thing. It's also conceited, and just a little bit mean and mischievous. It grants all the wishes the children ask for, just as it promises it will, except - why is it that the children end up in embarrassing and uncomfortable situations as a result?
Five Children and It was the first of E. Nesbit's fantasies for children. It was followed by two sequels, The Phoenix and the Carpet, and The Story of the Amulet. Parts of Five Children and It, first appeared in the Strand Magazine as a series under the heading 'The Psammead'.
The book is lighthearted and funny, as the children get into all sorts of impossible and hilarious situations. It has been enjoyed by several generations of children and their parents, and will be enjoyed by several more.