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The Railway Children (Puffin Classics)

Press:Penguin USA Puffin; Reissue edition (November 1, 1994)
Publication Date:1994-11
Author Name:Nesbit, Edith/ Brock, C. E. (ILT)


When Father has to go away for a time, the three children and their mother leave their London house and go to live in a small house in the country. 
They seek solace in the nearby railway station, making friends with Perks the porter and with the station master himself.
But the mystery remains: where is their father and is he ever going to return?


Her child characters were remarkable in her day because they are so entirely human. 
They are intelligent, vain, aggressive, humorous, witty, cruel, compassionate...
in fact, they are like adults.
--Gore Vidal

--This text refers to the Kindle Edition edition.

From the Back Cover

They were not railway children to begin with... 
They did not guess then how they would grow to love the railway, and how soon it would become the centre of their new life, nor what wonders and changes it would bring them.

--This text refers to the Kindle Edition edition.

About the Author

EDITH NESBIT was a mischievous child who grew up into an unconventional adult. 
With her husband, Hubert Bland, she was one of the founder members of the socialist Fabian Society; their household became a centre of the socialist and literary circles of the times.
Nesbit turned late to children's writing.
Her first children's book, THE TREASURE SEEKERS, was published in 1899 to great acclaim.
Other books featuring the Bastable children followed, and a series of magical fantasy books, including FIVE CHILDREN AND IT also became very popular.
THE RAILWAY CHILDREN was first published monthly in the LONDON MAGAZINE in 1905, and published as a book in 1906 and has been in print ever since.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

They were not railway children to begin with. 
I don't suppose they had ever thought about railways except as a means of getting to Maskelyne and cook's, the Pantomime, Zoological Gardens and Madame Tussaud's.
They were just ordinary suburban children, and they lived with their Father and Mother in an ordinary red-brick-fronted villa, with coloured glass in the front door, a tiled passage that was called a hall, a bathroom with hot and cold water, electric bells, French windows, and a good deal of white paint, and 'every modern convenience', as the house-agents say.
There were three of them.
Roberta was the eldest.
Of course, Mothers never have favourites, but if their Mother had a favourite, it might have been Roberta.
Next came Peter, who wished to be an Engineer when he grew up; and the youngest was Phyllis, who meant extremely well.
Mother did not spend all her time in paying dull calls to dull ladies, and sitting dully at home waiting for dull ladies to pay calls to her.
She was almost always there, ready to play with the children, and read to them, and help them to do their home-lessons.
Besides this she used to write stories for them while they were at school, and read them aloud after tea, and she always made up funny pieces of poetry for their birthdays  and for other great occasions, such as the christening of new kittens, or the furnishing of the dolls house, or the time when they were getting over the mumps.
These three lucky children always had everything they needed: pretty clothes, good fires, a lovely nursery with heaps of toys, and a Mother Goose wallpaper.
They had a kind and merry nursemaid, and a dog who was called James and who was their very own.
They also had a Father who was just perfect - never cross, never unjust, and always ready for a game - at least, if at any time he was not ready, he always had an excellent reason for it, and explained the reason to the children so interestingly and funnily that they felt sure he couldn't help himself.
You will think that they ought to have been very happy.
And so they were, but they did not know how happy till the pretty life in Edgecombe Villa was over and done with, and they had to live a very different life indeed...

From AudioFile

This two-hankie classic of British children's literature follows a mother, two daughters and a young son as they repair to a rural area near a railway station after a false accusation places the father in jail. 
Subdued sound effects, such as the chugging of a train as it roars by, are featured.
As usual with Naxos, the tale is punctuated by bits of classical music, sometimes sad, sometimes sweepingly grand.
Cast members are well chosen, particularly the young woman who portrays 12-year-old Roberta (Bobbie).
A tear comes to the eye as the father is reunited with her.
(c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine

--This text refers to the Kindle Edition edition.


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Comment List (Total:15)

  •     An ebook, free from Amazon for my Kindle app. An old book, now in public domain. A sweet, old-fashioned children's book. It features three upper middle class British children, Roberta ("Bobbie"), Peter, and Phyllis ("Phil"), who live comfortably in a London suburb with their mother, father, a cook, and one or two maids. Life is good until one evening when Father is suddenly called away. He does not return, and some time later the children and their mother move to a small house in the country, with no servants. They no longer go to school, and their mother no longer has the time to play with them, nor tell them stories or make up sweet and silly poems for them. At first she tells them they must play at being poor, and as time goes on, she tells them they are poor. They all miss their father, but no one mentions him and the children are in the dark as to why he disappeared. They entertain themselves by waving at the trains as they pass by near their home, and visiting the kind porter at the railway station. One adventure leads to another; they save lives; they prevent a train wreck; they rescue a boy who has broken his leg in the tunnel. They are polite and respectful and kind to everyone they meet, and everyone is charmed by them. As one might expect from a children's book, it ends happily; Father is reunited with his family, but they have grown stronger, braver, and wiser in his absence.Sent from Mail for Windows 10

  •     I could not put it down. This is a heartwarming story and I thoroughly enjoyed it and warmly recommend it.

  •     My grandfather and two great-grandfathers worked in remote areas on the railroad. My father lived alongside the railroad tracks as a young child and only lived in town with...

  •     Roberta (Bobbie), Peter, and Phyllis live very happily with their parents. But when two mysterious men show up, everything changes. Their father is gone and their mother frequently cries. They move to a small house with mice in the walls and must start saving money. The children are afraid to ask what’s wrong, and their mother doesn’t want to talk about it. Every day they go down and wave at people on the 9:15 train, and an old man always waves back. Through their own ingenuity, courage, and thoughtfulness they gradually come to know the old man, the railway employees, the villagers, a Russian immigrant, and even the barge people on the river, who are initially mistrustful. Convincing and appealing children in a heartwarming story.

  •     Great addition to my Kindle library.

  •     For adult or child full of the innocence long gone. A true read for any bibliophile, parent or child. Well worth it's salt.

  •     Some of the children's classics become dry and difficult for modern kids to embrace. The Railway Children, whilst containing a little old style language, provides a gripping story...

  •     Loved it! I had quite forgotten the rhythm of polite speech in children (which indicates my age! lol), not that I would necessarily exchange it for the candor of the present, but...

  •     — And something wonderful did happen exactly four days after she had said this.I wish I could say it was three days after, because in fairy tales it is always threedays after that things happen. But this is not a fairy story, and besides, it reallywas four and not three, and I am nothing if not strictly truthful.Edith Nesbit had her tongue well in her cheek, of course, as she came to the end of her children's classic, published 110 years ago in 1906. After all, this story of three children forced into sudden poverty with their mother when their father is arrested has its full share of romance: the children thrive in their new environment next to a railway cutting, they make friends everywhere they go, and by a wonderful coincidence one of these friends turns out to be exactly the person who can help them. And yet, the enduring strength of the book has less to do with its romance than its truth. This is a real family, under real conditions, talking as people really talked—a far cry from the magical time-travel of THE STORY OF THE AMULET which preceded it.Though equally fascinated by steam trains, I did not read the book as a child. I ordered it now as a footnote to Helen Dunmore's recent novel EXPOSURE, which takes THE RAILWAY CHILDREN as its narrative frame—something I naturally didn't know until it was pointed out by friends. Dunmore's focus is primarily on why the father was arrested; with Nesbit, this is simply a fact that the reader must conjecture in the opening pages; it is not until quite close to the end that we hear any details (and discover that the case is very close to Dunmore's). But I think she is right to say nothing up front; it reproduces exactly the child's feeling of being carted off to new places and situations without understanding the adult reason behind it. It also gives a clear foundation for their resilience: their task is simply to help their mother get the new cottage in order, take chores off her hands, and make the most of their new environment.The three children are Roberta (12), Peter (10), and Phyllis (8). But the author explains on page 30:— I am tired of calling Roberta by her name. I don't see why I should. No one elsedid. Everyone else called her Bobbie, and I don't see why I shouldn't.So we get to know them by boys' names: Bobbie, Peter, and Phil. This matches the children's active independence, yet Nesbit does not turn the girls into tomboys; her gender balance is carefully thought out, and breaks the usual pattern of an elder boy leading the girls. Peter is there for physical strength and mechanical ingenuity, but Roberta is the one with the most responsibility, the one closest to her mother, the thinker, and in many ways the protagonist of the book. It is she who suggests that they get up early on their first morning, light the fire, lay the table, and put the kettle on for breakfast. After which, they go outside, discover the railway, and lose track of time:— They had made an excellent fire, and had set the kettle on it at about half past five.So that by eight the fire had been out for some time, the water had all boiled away,and the bottom was burned out of the kettle. Also they had not thought of washingthe crockery before they set the table.But their mother is nothing if not resilient too, and soon the children are off to visit the little rural station and make the first of their many friends. Even here, Nesbit values truth. Very few of the adults who come to help them fall in love with their cuteness at first sight; the children make mistakes and have to work on repairing them. Peter makes friends with the Station Master only after he has been caught "mining" coal from the heap outside the station and has duly apologized. Perks, the porter who tells them so much about trains, is as easily offended as befriended, and the children risk upsetting him when they plan something nice for his birthday. The bargee whom they encounter on the nearby canal behaves like an aggressive bully, and it is only when they help him in an unexpected crisis that they see his good side. I was also struck by the fact that while the book is naturally full of adventures, they are mostly of a small and believable kind. The biggest of them, when they save a train from crashing, is not saved for some grand climax, as another author might do, but placed before the half-way point in the book. It is the simplicity and naturalness of the book that makes it great—not its romance but its truth.In reviewing THE STORY OF THE AMULET, I pointed out Nesbit's occasion tendency to insert herself into the story as a moralist, generally to advance her socialist beliefs. There is much less of that here. A Russian emigré who shows up in the village turns out to be a celebrated leftist writer, but little else is made of it. There is one slightly awkward scene where the local doctor tell Peter how to treat girls, but in general the life-lessons are introduced subtly in the everyday course of events; this is indeed an improving book to read, but the kids will never know it! Of course, Nesbit does introduce herself frequently into the action as author, with charming effect as in my first two quotations above. The mother who spends her days writing stories for sale while the children roam free in the countryside is Nesbit herself, who passed through some hard times of her own. Which leads to a delightful example of what we would now call meta-fiction:— "I say," said Peter, musingly, "wouldn't it be jolly if we all were in a book and you werewriting it? Then you could make all sorts of jolly things happen, and make Jim's legs getwell at once and be all right tomorrow, and Father come home soon and — "Little does Peter know, they are already in a book, and their mother is indeed making all sorts of jolly things happen. But she is not doing it the easy way. And that is what makes this more than a footnote to a later novel, more than a charming period piece, but a true classic, as satisfying now as in the year it was written.

  •     I read many books and do not rate them as often as I should. But this is such a good story- perfect for reading aloud to your family- that I just had to take time to give it 5...

  •     Just a simple sweet story

  •     I give this book 100 sets of five stars. It is a classic, it is refreshingly innocent, imaginative, constant in it's expression of human nature, and absolutely delightful. I recommend this book to children of reading age who need to see how wonderful the simple life can be. And for adults who need a corner of a soft chair, a warm fire, and a cup of hot tea, and a reminder of the sweetness of innocence and heroism and love of family.

  •     This is one of the best children's stories ever written. It is set in very much simpler times. The children do not have drug dealers on their way to school or guns in their faces,but they do have problems. Their problems are serious ones. Their Dad is falsely imprisoned. They must leave their home and become poor for the first time in their lives. From this point they work to solve the problems they face and do so in an interesting fashion. This book empowers children to take on the difficulties they face, even today. And if you are a parent worried about your child reading horrors and gore, have no worry. This story is about children and for children not about all the garbage adults do and wallow in in this "modern world" of greed, cruelty and gore. Let your kids be kids--Let them read a book.---This one would be a good one.

  •     If I read a story to children, I want it to celebrate the goodness in people and I want it to have a happy ending. This grand old story does all that.

  •     Wonderful story with funny heartwarming characters and interesting setting which I read out loud to my 7-year-old son. He and I both loved it.


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