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Five Children on the Western Front

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Comfortably blending fantasy elements with an English period piece about a close family, Saunders doesn’t shy from the tragedies of WWI, but handles them with a tender sadness, eschewing any hints of sentimentality or melodrama. It's sad to see this character profoundly injured and that character die, but the book is so quick to an assurance that everything is all right really. The effects of the war on the domestic front – the shortages and the empty seats – are nicely portrayed.

If I didn't know otherwise you could have convinced me this was a recently unearthed manuscript of Nesbit's. The upper-class "jolly-hockey-sticks" quality so imbued in the children's language can jar in moments of pathos, and there's an odd tendency - especially in the Psammead's stories of its own past - for Saunders to show instead of tell. Edie, the youngest of the children, is adorable – and perhaps the character who feels the Psammead’s magic most keenly.Kate Saunders' Five Children on the Western Front is both an homage and a goodbye to this twilight time. Food shortages, lawns turned into potato fields, young girls driving ambulances in London and in France, life and deatth in the trenches are all there.

There are still a few adults around who can recite "In Flanders Fields" but that is about all that is remembered about a war that changed society and civilization. I can fully say that I think Saunders handled the story well but I do implore those that read it to at least visit the original first. The way Saunders uses the Psammead's history to parallel the WWI setting is its main strength, that and the beautiful way she pokes at Fabian confusion/hypocrisy.You do read the book feeling like not knowing Five Children and It is a big gaping gap in your knowledge, but that feeling passes as you get deeper and deeper into the book. In this highly acclaimed sequel to the much-loved Five Children and It, we rejoin the five children on the eve of World War I. The children initially regard the Psammead as a treasured (if rather bad-tempered) sand fairy but as the book progresses we learn about the awful crimes he committed in his time. It's a worthy continuation of a fantastic series, that should be read by old and new fans of Nesbit's alike. Saunders recaps the originals pretty well, and I can’t help but have high hopes for the fact that it may even encourage some kids to seek out the originals.

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