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Author of AGAINST A DARKENING SKY, THE EMPTY ROOM, OUR DAILY BREAD, and others. Find out more at www.LaurenBDavis.com. I read as if my sanity depended upon it.. . . oh, wait, it does! Snort.

The Railway Children (Dover Children's Evergreen Classics)

The Railway Children - E. Nesbit There is something perfectly lovely about all E. Nesbit's books, and they certainly formed the backdrop to many a day when I was a little girl. Reading this particular book as an adult fills me with not only with pleasure but with a deeper understanding. I could not help but wonder if this story, of a father wrongly accused and imprisoned, was not inspired by the Dreyfus affair, which was certainly preoccupying many people's minds at the time. One of the delights of Nesbit's writing is that she never condescends to her young readers. Complicated questions of justice, of charity, of the freedoms denied others -- there is quite a wonderful sequence involving a Russian political fugitive -- of absent parents and what it means to perform a heroic act. The children learn things indirectly, peeking into the world of adults from around the corners of childhood. It's very well done.One of the things that I noticed most this time around, though, was the amount of freedom children had. Can you imagine children left to play unsupervised in the woods, around a train station, by the train tunnels and tracks themselves? I will be showing my age here, but I recall many days spent wandering by myself in the fields and forests near my childhood home, expected to return only when I got hungry or the streetlights came on. Did I get into some mischief? Yes. Was it a bit dangerous? Yes. And was being left to create a world by myself, and sometimes with other children, good for my imagination, for my sense of independence, for developing a way of being in the world? Undeniably. I wonder, in fact, if I would have become a writer if I hadn't had those days, if I was driven from one place to another, one class to another, one computer to another.Well, that's an essay for another place. Here, I'll simply say it was lovely to visit a world, so beautifully crafted, which probably now exists no where except between the pages of a book. Recommended.