Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Story of the Amulet

Dover has done more to protect and republish out of print classics than probably any other publishing entity ever.  There have been a number of their offerings over the years which I've reviewed here on this blog.  This is another one.  Originally published in 1906, The Story of the Amulet is an odd tale ostensibly (more on that later) for children.  It's the third of the 5 Children books about a family of 5 siblings (4 of whom are in this book) and their adventures. They are set on their path by a thoroughly weird magical mentor, the Psammead. The Psammead, or 'Sammy', is by turns rude and solicitous.  The book was written at a time when societal mores were more stringent and far more unbreakable than now. In that sense the dialogue and characterizations can feel a little 'out there' from a modern reader's viewpoint. In a lot of ways, Nesbit reminds me of Charles Kingsley, Roald Dahl, and even Shel Silverstein, in the sly puncturing of societal norms and the polite fictions we tell ourselves in order to keep society chugging along. Make no mistake, this is two different books depending on the reader.  There's the fable tall tale adventure plot for the younger readers with a healthy dose of sly humor lurking under the surface for the supposed adults in the audience.

Released 18th July 2018 by Dover, it's 320 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats (earlier editions are available in other formats). This edition is a reprint of the 1957 Ernest Benn version.

This would make a superlative read-to-me for younger kids (note: due to length, it'll be a long-term project) or a good school-break read for middle readers.  I can't honestly say that it would be completely appropriate for a reading circle read in a classroom setting due to the oddness of some of the characters and the implicit attitudes and mores of its time period (Edwardian England).  It is a product of its time period and shows it. It would be fine for a school library though, there's nothing overtly violent or objectionable. 

I really enjoyed these books a lot.  I remember them from my youth and they were a sweetly nostalgic revisiting of the books which turned me into the raging bibliophile I am today.

Four stars, as long as readers remember they're reading a book written more than 100 years ago.

Five everlasting stars for Dover, they are a treasure worth preserving and supporting.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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