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on 28 August 2016
I neither remember reading this as a child, nor do I remember seeing the TV or film adaptations, though the story was extremely familiar – and, as I have a clear image of Jenny Agutter seeing her missing father, and wringing the withers of the viewer with a line which is in the book, causing the image to surface, as I read, I can only assume I did read, did see, or both

I came to this reading belatedly on the back of a marvellous book for adults, covering a similar territory – Helen Dunmore’s Exposure. That book clearly references this one – 3 children, 2 girls and a boy, a father working within Government, a secret disgrace, manipulated, innocence wronged, and trains an integral background, Dunmore’s book was set in the early 60’s, and this one by Nesbit in 1905. Obviously Nesbit was writing for children, and it is the three children in this one who occupy centre stage – they are the catalysts for all events – whereas Dunmore was most focused on the husband and wife, but, still, what struck me was an optimistic innocence in the Nesbit. This is, in the end a feel-good book. There isn’t an unpleasant character within it – and even ones which might seem, on first meeting them, to be aggressive and unpleasant – like a bargee, are only waiting to have events transpire which reveal their humanity.

Though this does not have the goody goody children of much ‘improving’ fare for Victorian children – Nesbit had, after all, a rather complex, progressive character – she was a co-founder of the Fabian Society, did not marry her first husband till she was seven months pregnant, and ended up adopting the two children he had with his mistress – Nesbit’s good friend – there is a strong moral sense that everyone can be, and wants to be, ethical.

The three children argue and fight, and struggle to swallow their pride and apologise. They sometimes do wrong things – steal coal, because they are cold and poor, but are lucky enough to find that acknowledging their wrongdoing leads to kindly forgiveness. Lots of opportunities for heroics present themselves, and the children prevent a railway crash, rescue someone with a broken leg in a train tunnel, save a baby from burning, and unite a community. The book is a remarkably uplifting and moral one – but it is not the morality of ‘know your place’ or pious god-fearing, but can clearly be connected to Nesbit’s political consciousness.

I was also struck by the ‘reality’ of the book – this was not a book set in a fantasy world, but one set ‘in reality’. The children are children of a middle-class family but for reasons which we learn as the book progresses (I suspect adults would immediately leap to the correct conclusions) the family have fallen on hard times, and it is the mother who has to earn money to put food on the table. The children and their mother struggle over their ‘hard times’ – but they get through by supporting each other. Even the youngest child contributes. If there is ‘unreality’ it is only because (or is that just my cynicism) not everyone so clearly chooses to be progressive, enlightened and morally working for the common good as Nesbit’s characters all do.

“I think everyone in the world is friends if you can only get them to see you don’t want to be UN-friends”

“Perhaps you’re right,” said Mother, and she sighed

It is, of course ‘only’ a book : one I enjoyed immensely, one with a lot of engaging humour, one very well constructed, one full of hope and positivity – but I kept thinking that Peter, the young boy, brave and sometimes impetuous, ‘in real’ would have no doubt become trench fodder in 1914 : I was very aware, reading this, that it came out of a sense of progressive hopefulness that events of 1914-1918 rather destroyed, and I suspect this book could not have been written 10 years later
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on 22 September 2015
This is a very pleasing dramatization on 2 CDs of "The Railway Children". While it doesn't include everything in the book it does include the main incidents, and it is a full cast dramatization so that we can feel that we are with these children through their adventures. One day strange men come and take the children's father away, and soon their mother is telling them that they are moving to the country. Their country cottage does not have the luxuries they were used to in suburban London - but there is a railway nearby with trains to see - and the local station not far away. There they make friends with the staff and especially with the porter, Mr Perks. The children also get to know an old gentleman who end up helping them in various ways! The children have all sorts of adventures - rescuing a baby from a burning canal boat; finding a Russian refugee; preventing a serious railway accident; finding an injured boy in a tunnel; and various other things that they do. But one day Bobbie, the oldest girl in the family, finds out the truth about what has happened to her father. All seems hopeless - but Bobbie doesn't give up, and turns to her friend the old gentleman for help. And he does help, and on another never-to-be-forgotten day the people on a station platform hear the heartrending but joyful cry of "Oh! My Daddy! My Daddy!" as Bobbie meets her father at last. All these things and more are brought to us by this great CD drama produced by the BBC.
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on 18 May 2014
I revisited this lovely children's classic and was surprised by how much I still enjoyed this as an adult. Perhaps as a child, I had not really paid attention to the dire financial circumstances of the three siblings, Bobbie (Roberta), Peter, and Phyllis, and their mother, that led to their removal to the countryside, away from London where they had lived. Their father had mysteriously gone for business and not returned.

It is suggested that they had had rather comfortable and privileged lives in the city. Despite their reduced situation, and unused to country living, the children discover a railway behind Three Chimneys, the house they have come to live in, and soon get into scrapes and develop a tenuous relationship with Perks, the Porter, and a kindly old gentleman who takes the 915 train daily.

E. Nesbit is brilliant at capturing the children's distinct personalities and their very realistic squabbles and fierce loyalty to one another that only siblings can identify with. They become unwitting heroes when they help avert a potential railway accident, and help save a baby from a burning houseboat along the way, while eldest girl Bobbie becomes more and more concerned that there is something Mother is not telling them about their father.

A charming children's novel, and refreshingly honest in tone, "The Railway Children" stands well against the test of time, and deserves to be read by young and old alike.
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on 27 February 2018
This is awful - no illustrations apart from cover, print small on pages which looks like should be a larger font to fill as looks ridiculous. I was wanting a children's story book for my 9 year old daughter. Even I will find this awful to read.

How comes others have given it rave reviews unless we have been sent a dud copy/fake. Really disappointed.
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on 11 January 2018
Lovely book with some gorgeous illustrations dotted throughout. I found the story well written, heart warming and downright amusing at times - with it’s use of old-fashioned, comical British adjectives, such as: ‘ripping sport’ and ‘spiffing fun’ and ‘what larks..!’ Ends satisfactorily and leaves you feeling glad after all the family have been through. Worth a read for the great British classic that it is.
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on 10 October 2014
Having never read this book before I assumed wrongly it would be a fairly simplistic children's book. I could not have been more wrong. It was written I believe around 1902 which I assumed would also make it stayed and dated. All credit to the author as despite the period the book was written it it deals not only with some very adult themes but also some themes which are as relevant to us today as they were to persons living in the early 1900. Having seen the film a number of times it was great to read the book to put everything into context and allow the imagination a free roam not constrained by a film directors interpretation.
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on 24 September 2012
I first read this as a child, returning to it 40 odd years later thanks to free books on Kindle! It made a nice change after slogging through some Classic Literature which was quite hard work (I'm looking at you, Les Miserables unabridged).

Still, a great little book, easy to read and leaves you with a warm glow. A bit dated for most of today's kids, unfortunately, and they would probably laugh at some of the things in it 'We're very poor, children, so we have to go live in a big rambling cottage in the country and only have one full time housekeeper'. (My words, not the authors but you know what I mean).

It was lucky those 3 children did spend the summer in the country as the death toll there would have been horrendous otherwise (1 baby saved from burning barge, 1 schoolboy saved from train in tunnel, countless passengers saved from train crashing into landslip).

Take it at face value and you will enjoy it. I have just downloaded 'Five Children and It' by the same author and already looking forward to it.
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on 6 January 2017
The quality of this book isn't great at all. If only I'd opened up the packet before Christmas Eve, I'd have sent it back. It looked more like a photocopy of a book than a properly designed and laid out book. It's not been typeset in the easiest to read font either (it's in a serif font) so I'd give this a miss if, like me, you're buying for a child.
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on 5 April 2018
This book's pages are miles bigger than they need be. I was expecting a normal sized book that I could fit in with all the other books I have, but not so in this case and its massive area made it difficult to read. I wish I'd never bought it.
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on 29 December 2016
The railway children is a great classic which is entertaining. You will experience many emotions in this book which will keep you on the edge of your seat all the way through. A must read book for all ages.
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