Publication date: 2/10/14
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Source: I was lucky enough to win a signed copy from Faber & Faber in a Twitter giveaway (thank you again!)
Following on from E. Nesbit’s classic trilogy beginning with Five Children and It, Saunders breathes fresh life into the characters of Robert, Anthea, Cyril, Jane, and the Lamb. Five Children on the Western Front is, as you might expect, set during the events of World War One. The children are now grown up and the youngest, Edie, who has never met the Psammead is keen to replicate the adventures enjoyed by her older siblings. With Robert and Cyril off at war and Anthea working as a nurse, Jane, the Lamb, and Edie must work out why the Psammead it here and why he has lost his magic.
Knowing from the title and from the cover copy that this is set during wartime, I was a little wary that this would be an overbearingly sad story. However, Saunders creates a perfect balance between the tragedy of war and the innocent adventures of the children. I was pleasantly surprised at how well her writing emulates the original Psammead stories and yet it didn’t feel like one writer copying another. There were moments that literally stole my breath, such as one particular sentence a few pages in where the children have been taken to the future and Anthea notices that her brothers are not in any of the photos. As an adult reading this, my heart definitely skipped a beat – in a good way.
Saunders cleverly captures of the tone and magic of Nesbit’s original work and this is a wonderful sequel of sorts which introduces a new generation of readers to the fabulous adventures with the Psammead.