The Railway Children
'The train wouldn't care. It would go rushing by them and tear round the corner and go crashing into that awful mound. And everyone would be killed. Her hands grew very cold and trembled so that she could hardly hold the flag. And then came the distant rumble and hum of the metals, and a puff of white steam showed far away along the stretch of line.'
Bobbie, Peter and Phyllis are ordinary children, who live with their father and their mother in an ordinary red-brick house, with coloured glass in the front door. Then their father is very suddenly taken away, and no-one will tell them where he's gone, or why he had to leave.
The children go with their mother to live in the countryside, where they make friends with the people who work at the nearby railway station, and even get a ride in the cab of a steam train.
One day they see a landslip block the railway line with earth and trees - and the next train is due at any moment! Can the children prevent a terrible accident... and will they ever see their father again?
Five Children and It
'The thing turned its long eyes to look at her, and said: "Does she always talk nonsense, or is it only the rubbish on her head that makes her silly?" It looked scornfully at Jane's hat as it spoke. "Do you mean to tell me seriously you don't know a Psammead when you see one?"'
The Psammead is a small, furry animal from thousands of years ago that has eyes on long horns like a snail's eves, ears like a bat's ears, and a tubby body shaped like a spider's and covered with thick soft fur; its arms and legs are furry too, and it has hands and feet like a monkey's.
But the best thing about the Psammead is that it can grant wishes. Yet the Psammead has an awkward personality too - and somehow the children's wishes never turn out quite how they intended them...
The Phoenix and The Carpet
'"I will tell you my tale," said the Phoenix. "I had resided for many thousand years in the wilderness, which is a large, quiet place with very little really good society, and I was becoming weary of the monotony of my existence. But I acquired the habit of laying my egg and burning myself every five hundred years and you know how difficult it is to break yourself of a habit."
"Yes," said Cyril; "Jane used to bite her nails."'
When the children from "Five Children and It" accidentally hatch the egg of the mythical Phoenix, it shows them how to use their magic carpet to travel anywhere they want... and a whole new round of adventures begins!
The Story of The Amulet
'"Listen," said the Psammead, in a voice that sounded as though it would begin to cry in a minute, "I don't think the creature who keeps this shop will ask a very high price for me. I've bitten him more than once, and I've made myself look as common as I can."'
The children's mother is very ill, and their father has been sent abroad on business. With both their parents away, they discover their old friend the Psammead captured and put up for sale! If only they could get wishes from the Psammead, they could wish their mother well again, and wish their father home.
But the Psammead cant give them any more wishes. Luckily it knows where they can find an ancient Egyptian amulet that could give them their 'heart's desire' if only it was in one piece! To find the missing piece of the amulet and make their mother well again, the children have to journey through time...
The Story of the Treasure Seekers
"'I'll tell you what, we must go and seek for treasure: it is always what you do to restore the fallen fortunes of your House.'"
When the Bastable family runs short of money, the children decide its up to them to find a way to restore their family fortunes. Will they succeed in rescuing their father from the visits of policeman and debt collectors?
'"Children are like jam: all very well in the proper place, but you can't stand them all over the shop eh, what?"
These were the dreadful words of our Indian uncle. They made us feel very young and angry; and yet we could not be comforted by calling him names to ourselves, as you do when nasty grown-ups say nasty things, because he is not nasty, but quite the exact opposite when not irritated.
My father said, "Perhaps they had better go to boarding-school." And that was awful, because we know Father disapproves of boarding-schools. And he looked at us and said, "I am ashamed of them, sir!"'
The Bastable children behave so badly that their father sends them away to live in the countryside. Determined to be good in the future, they form a society, the 'Wouldbegoods', for being good in. But things don't go exactly as they plan...
The Enchanted Castle
'Jimmy had planted a loud, cheerful-sounding kiss on the Princess's pale cheek, and now the three stood breathless, awaiting the result.
And the Princess said, quite plainly and distinctly: "Then the hundred years are over? Which of you is my Prince that aroused me from my deep sleep of so many long years?"
"I did," said Jimmy fearlessly, for she did not look as though she were going to slap anyone.'
Sent to live in the countryside for the summer, Jerry, Jimmy and Cathleen discover a secret castle containing a sleeping princess and (although he's worried that she might slap him for it) one of the boys kisses her, and she wakes up. But shouldnt a real princess be taller? Is the castle really enchanted or was the 'princess' just pretending?