After finishing A Little Princess, I decided that Miss M and I would try another older classic for our next bedtime read-aloud — The Railway Children by Edith Nesibt. The Railway Children is a turn-of-the-20th-century story of three English children who leave their city home after their father is mysteriously sent away from the family. Roberta, Peter and Phyllis find themselves in a country home near a railway, which proves to be a source for interesting adventures.
Nesbit is an author whose work I’ve been wanting to like, if that makes any sense. Last year we tried listening to an audio book of The Enchanted Castle. It just wasn’t what I expected, and Miss M and I lost interest after about 2/3 of the book. Maybe someday we’ll try that one again. I originally had Five Children and It on our book list for this year, but we committed the cardinal sin of book-to-movie adaptations by watching the movie without having read the book first. The kids didn’t particularly enjoy the movie, and although I read that that book has a somewhat different story line, I wasn’t very motivated to try reading the book after our movie experience.
I wish I could say that the “third time was a charm” for me with Nesbit’s books, but that wasn’t entirely true. While I don’t think Miss M liked this story as much as some we’ve read this year, she told me she enjoyed the book. And she did beg for additional chapters most nights, a sure sign that she was “into” the story. (The chapters are long, so I had to say “no” most nights!).
I found the narrator’s voice in the story to be somewhat distracting and off-putting. While the story is mostly written in third-person language, a first person “author/observer” voice comes in on a regular basis:
“I hope you don’t mind my telling you a good deal about Roberta. The fact is I am growing very fond of her. The more I observe, her the more I love her. And I notice all sorts of things about her that I like.”
The narrator even asks the reader a few questions:
“Washing is fun. I wonder whether you ever done it? This particular washing took place in the back kitchen, which had a stone floor and a very big stone sink under its window.”
Besides the unusual narrative voice, I also found the children’s many adventures to be a bit over-the-top for one story. Even those well-loved Alden kids usually only save the day or solve the mystery once per book. The Railway Children manage to save a train from crashing, help a lost political prisoner and save a boy stuck in a tunnel with a broken leg all in the same book. While this put it in the “yeah, right” category for me, I think Miss M loved it all the more because of all these exciting (in a quaint, turn-of-the-century style) exploits. All in all I didn’t hate this book, but I probably wouldn’t enjoy reading it out loud again. My favorite part might have been the happy ending. 🙂
And speaking of the Aldens, a new fan (or maybe even two) have joined the ranks. After listening to Miss M joyfully recount the plot of yet another Boxcar Children book, Mr. E asked me to read the first one in the series to him. Miss M had to grab it one afternoon while we were in between chapters and spend an hour re-reading it for herself. 🙂 This seems to be the first chapter book that Mr. E has truly loved — he has sat for as many as three chapters at a time! Definitely a first for him. Even Mr. K has grabbed his special pillow and cuddled up for a chapter or so at a time. I’m hoping this will be the beginning of more patience from the boys for longer stories.
I’m linking up with Read-Aloud Thursday @ Hope is the Word!
Ha! It sounds like those Aldens are loved as much at your house as they are at mine. My dd re-reads several of them each week. I confess I have never read a Nesbit book, so I can’t speak to the annoying-ness of them. However, my girls have listened to Railway Children over and over again in audiobook format. Maybe that’s the way to go for Nesbit’s books for you. 😉