Kate Saunders - Five Children On The Western Front (2 stars)

A disappointing sequel to E Nesbitt's wonderful, immersive and humorous Five Children and It series

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Kate Saunders - Five Children On The Western Front

(Faber and Faber)

Five Children and It is the first of a much loved trilogy from writer E Nesbit about five children and the Psammead (sand fairy) who grants wishes. It has since been adapted for TV and film and has inspired various takes on the story including books by Jacqueline Wilson and Helen Cresswell.

This latest version is set during the First World War when most of the children are adults. The core of the novel is the gradual reveal of the Psammead’s mysterious past and the parallels with the War.

To take these beloved characters and examine the impact of adulthood and the devastating experience of war has the potential to be a fascinating and emotional journey. Unfortunately, Kate Saunders doesn’t quite manage to retain the childlike sense of wonder, mischief and warmth of the original while exploring these complex subjects. In particular, her vision of the Psammead’s past arrests the mystery and magic that Nesbit had so successfully woven.

The Nesbit novels are wonderful, immersive and humorous pieces of storytelling; if this leads readers to her work, that can only be a very good thing.

Published by Faber and Faber on Thu 2 Oct.

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