The Railway Children, by E. Nesbit, was first published in 1906.
Three children, forced to alter their comfortable lifestyle when their father is taken away by strangers, move with their mother to a simple cottage near a railway station where their days are filled with excitement and adventure.
I adored this book. It reminded me so much of The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright (published 35 years later). If you haven’t read my reviews of Enright’s books, then you might not know that I love children-exploring-and-having-adventures plots. You wouldn’t think that a book about three children playing in the countryside around a railroad station would be very interesting, but this book was compelling and charming and a delightful children’s book all round.
I love to read E. Nesbit because so many mid-20th-century authors were influenced by her, such as Edward Eager, probably Elizabeth Enright, and, of course, C. S. Lewis. In fact, reading Nesbit has shown me just how much of Lewis’s voice is echoing her. She introduces the third child of the book as “Phyllis, who meant extremely well,” which immediately brought to my mind the first line of Dawn Treader: “There once was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” Seeing authors I’ve read emulate other authors I’ve read is just amazing to me.
Also, it was so amusing to read about Roberta being left home alone, and the barge wife leaving her baby alone in the barge. That’s a 109 year difference for you.
I do wish that the ending hadn’t been quite so pat and convenient with the children’s father, but I did like the happy ending (even if I thought a sadder one would be a bit more realistic…)
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Genre: Realistic, Children’s
They all climbed on to the top of the fence, and then suddenly there was a rumbling sound that made them look along the line to the right, where the dark mouth of a tunnel opened itself in the face of a rocky cliff; next moment a train had rushed out of the tunnel with a shriek and a snort, and had slid noisily past them. They felt the rush of its passing, and the pebbles on the line jumped and rattled under it as it went by.
“Oh!” said Roberta, drawing a long breath; “it was like a great dragon tearing by. Did you feel it fan us with its hot wings?”
“I suppose a dragon’s lair might look very like that tunnel from the outside,” said Phyllis.
The Railway Children is a delightful little gem of a book. I love the “children go adventuring in the country” trope, and the children’s imagination and resilience made it all the more special. I also enjoyed seeing just how E. Nesbit influenced so many people with her writing. Her books are timeless masterpieces.
You can buy this here: Railway Children