This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Saturday Rave - The Railway Children by E Nesbit.

"Girls are just as clever as boys, and don't you forget it!" says Daddy in The Railway Children. But then there's a knock at the door, and for a long time Roberta (Bobbie) doesn't understand anything. 
That doesn't stop there being lots of adventures, though, lots of them centring on the marvellous steam train which travels past the house.
Here is a piece from further on in the book.
"[Bobbie] could not stay in the garden. The hollyhocks and the asters and the late roses all seemed to be waiting for something to happen. It was one of those still, shiny autumn days, when everything does seem to be waiting."
I love the way E Nesbit's description of a few flowers on a quiet day fills the story with excitement. Magic!

Word to use today: shiny.

February in England is often dull, but there are still lots of shiny things around - new pennies, apples, crocuses, mirrors. Even the sun, occasionally!

The word shiny comes from the Old High German scinan to shine, which is related to the Greek skia, which means, rather oddly, shadow.

Oh, and that ending to the story! I don't want to give it away for those who don't know the story (can there be anyone who doesn't know the story?) but that heart-wrenching call of Bobbie's on the station platform...oh yes, I cry every time.
I seem to remember E Nesbit stopped writing after some idiot editor told her that children didn't like her sort of book any more.
Oh yes, that editor's right up there with the Man from Porlock as far as I'm concerned.
Anyway, what riches she left us: The Psammead, The Wouldbegoods, and The Railway Children among others, all published a hundred years ago and still full of energy and humanity and joy.


  1. Another Nesbit fan here!

    There's only one word for the way that scene on the railway platform makes me feel: "agutted".

    The very ending of the book is also memorable, in which the reader is gently shown to the front door of the family's house and pushed out, with the door shut firmly though not rudely in his/her face. It's hard not to feel just a little hurt that we're no longer wanted; but I suppose all books do this really, if one has enjoyed them enough.

  2. Agutted?
    But yes, I agree the very end is brilliant, and it only works because the characters have taken on such convincing lives of their own that we believe absolutely in their continuing existence.
    Would make me weep with envy if I wasn't in floods to start with!