Author Spotlight: E. Nesbit

Illustration from The Wouldbegoods
by Reginald B. Birch, 1901

When I was ten or eleven years old, my sister shared E. Nesbit's The Story of the Treasure Seekers with me, and I quickly read through the handful of other books by Nesbit she owned before adding some new titles to our collection. I loved the light and humorous quality of Nesbit's writing, particularly in The Story of the Treasure Seekers and its two sequels narrated by Oswald Bastable. Even though Nesbit wrote these books a century ago, I easily identified with her characters because they behaved and played much like my sister and I did. To me, Nesbit knew what it was like to be a child, and expressed the way I thought and felt as a child with sometimes uncanny accuracy.

Of course, not all of the situations Nesbit wrote about were realistic, even in her own time--many of Nesbit's works for children are fantasy stories featuring magical situations and mythical creatures, such as Five Children and It and its two sequels. Nesbit's fantasy books were among the first I ever read in the genre, and have proved an inspiration for later authors such as Edward Eager and J. K. Rowling. While I enjoyed these fantastical stories and have since become an enormous fan of fantasy literature, I confess that Nesbit's more down-to-earth books always fascinated me more than her tales of magic did. Perhaps because I loved how real Nesbit's characters seemed, I preferred her more realistic plots.

Whether fantastic or realistic, all of Nesbit's books stand up remarkably well to the test of time. They are never didactic or moralistic, like many Victorian children's books can be, and are just as fun and exciting to read today as they were when first published. This timeless quality has lead me to include Nesbit's work multiple times in Sparrow Tree Square, since I want to show young readers that it can be easy to connect with older works of literature. I believe that good books for children never become outdated, and Nesbit's works demonstrate this admirably.