The Story of the Amulet was my very favourite story when I was about nine or ten.
I've just gone back to look at it again after many years and I've discovered it's about three times as good as I'd remembered it. It's funny and sharp and full of real people being stoutly themselves despite being surrounded by magic and time-travel.
You learn a lot when you read The Story of the Amulet, too. I mean, I still occasionally delight my friends with merry snippets on the subject of Tyrian purple.
The amulet in the story looked like this:
but the thing was that it shouldn't have done, because half of it was missing. As it was, it was a time-machine. If it was ever complete, it would give you your heart's desire.
How did the children know all this? Well, they had some help from an old friend.
They stood there on the pavement, a cause of some inconvenience to the passersby, and thus beguiled the time with conversation. Cyril was leaning his elbow on the top of a hutch that had seemed empty when they had inspected the whole edifice of hutches one by one, and he was trying to reawaken the interest of a hedgehog that had curled itself into a ball earlier in the interview, when a small, soft voice just below his elbow said, quietly, plainly and quite unmistakably--not in any squeak or whine that had to be translated--but in downright common English--
'Buy me--do--please buy me!'
The friend was a psammead (E Nesbit helpfully informs us that it's pronounced Sammy-ad, but I seem to remember pronouncing it PUSS-a-meed anyway). The psammead is a grouch, but it leads the children (and us, as well) into a world of wonders.
This is an utterly birlliant book. Read it--do--please read it!
Word To Use Today: amulet. This word, meaning a piece of jewellery or a trinket worn as a protection against evil, or as a charm, comes from the Latin word amulētum.