Suspend Your Disbelief

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YA We Love: Five Children and It


5 Children CoverMy desk totem is a hundred-year-old children’s book. As a child, I knew its magic was true—the characters were too sharp not to be real.

“What on earth is it?” Jane said. “Shall we take it home?”

The thing turned its long eyes to look at her, and said: “Does she always talk such nonsense, or is it only the rubbish on her head that makes her silly?” It looked scornfully at Jane’s hat as it spoke.

Meet the Psammead, a creature with stem-like eyes, found by five siblings on a country escape from London’s grit. It grants wishes by inflating like a balloon—exhausting itself—predicting dire consequences. And the wings the Bastable children wish for disappear at sunset, stranding them in a church tower. They wish their “nuisance” baby brother would “Grow up now!” then watch in horror as “the Lamb suddenly and violently grew up” into a vain young fop with the maturity of someone who never endured adolescence.

Real wishes would be riddled with missteps, I figured at age 10. Writing books is my new magic, and it’s sure as hell no easier to get right.


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