In The Railway Children, E. Nesbit provides an intriguing series of vignettes about three middle-class London children at the turn of the century learning to adjust to life as poorer rural children when their father is inexplicably taken away. The railway become the central part of their daily lives. Bobbie (Roberta), Peter, and Phil (Phyllis) are naive children, but they are also completely sincere, and so one cannot help but enjoy reading along with their adventures.
The Railway Children is not only a series of small adventures, however. The overarching difficulty is the absence of their father, an absence their mother does not want to discuss. The eldest child, Bobbie, is able to find out where he has gone, and using the friends she has made in their small Yorkshire town, she seeks help. Because of the kind and giving nature of the children, all who meet them cannot resist enjoying them.
E. Nesbit’s voice is familiar and delightful. She treats her readers as if she were the parent telling a simple story to a child, but she does not speak down to the audience. I appreciated the complexities of language, and although the story is now more than a hundred years old, it still resonates with us at this time.
Raisin and I enjoyed listening to the librivox.org audio edition of this book. The reader did a remarkable job in being true to the tone of the book. (And can I say I just love a British accent?!). I’d highly recommend this book as a read-aloud or an audio book for young children. There is something to be envied about the carefree life of childhood, even in the midst of challenges. The Railway Children portrayed that life wonderfully.
We also found the Masterpiece Theater movie version of the story, created in 2002. The entire time we watched it, Raisin commented with “Was this in the book?” and “That was not in the book!”. It was a satisfactory movie version of the book, but of course it was not as good.
There is always something more personable about meeting new friends through the carefully crafted words in a creative and fun book by a friendly author.
Note: I am an Amazon affiliate.