The Phoenix and the Carpet (Looking Glass Library)

by E. Nesbit

Other authorsBruce Coville (Introduction), H. R. Millar (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 2010



Local notes

Fic Nes





Random House Books for Young Readers (2010), Edition: 1st Edition in this form, 320 pages. $10.99.


If you're a fan of children's and young adult fantasy fiction, this timeless classic from author Edith Nesbit should merit a place on your must-read list. The second in a series of three thematically linked novels, The Phoenix and the Carpet details the adventures that ensue when a family discovers that their nursery's carpet is enchanted and bears within it the egg of a magical talking Phoenix.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

320 p.; 5.2 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member bragan
The 1904 sequel to Nesbit's classic Five Children and It. Unsurprisingly, in this one the children make the acquaintance of a phoenix and a magic carpet. The phoenix is extremely vain and perhaps a little too fond of naps, but is often surprisingly useful. And the carpet can take you anywhere you
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wish to go, no matter how vague and abstract or how complicated and demanding your wish, although it can only do so three times per day. Needless to say, the kids have lots of little adventures and find interesting ways to get in and out of trouble.

Like the previous book, this one has a lot of charm and a wonderful, sly sense of humor. I have to say, though, that I didn't find it quite as constantly delightful as Five Children and It. Perhaps that's partly due to the fact that with the first one I had all the trepidation of revisiting a childhood favorite, followed by that marvelously pleasant feeling when it turns out to live up to your memories, but this time my expectations were higher going in. Still, it's a fun book, and and well worth an adult re-read.

(I do feel that I should probably point out, though, that these books suffer very slightly from changing social sensibilities. The first one features some unpleasantly stereotyped "red Indians," although arguably they're meant to represent the unrealistic figures that existed in young British children's imaginations. And this one features some scenes involving cartoony black "savages" that, while really not bad by product-of-the-time standards, may leave modern readers shaking their heads a bit.)
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LibraryThing member Marse
This sequel to "Five Children and It" is even more delightful than the first novel. This time the children come into possession of a phoenix and a magic carpet that grants them three wishes a day. Their adventures take them to all sorts of exotic places and humorous situations. There is one scene
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that takes place among "copper-colored natives" somewhere in a tropical location that is cringe-inducing because of the stereotyped and patronizing view of the "natives", however, I must say that the depictions of "natives" in this book, and in the prior one are not malicious. I would say the depictions are naive, as in what these turn-of-the-century children imagine from their own books. In fact, what the children were reading is mentioned often in both books, and, it seemed to me, the books they were reading (19th century adventure books for children-Last of the Mohicans, Robinson Crusoe, etc.) are the impetus for these encounters with "natives". The Phoenix is also a wonderful character, as is the narrator. Enjoy!
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LibraryThing member Eurekas
Well written and very funny. I enjoyed this one more than 5 children and It, though they are the same characters, the author seems more comfortable with them and the Phoenix is priceless, wise and vain, what a lovely combination. Highly recommended!
LibraryThing member eleanorigby
A wonderful tale of magic in the nursery. If you like Harry Potter, you'll love this book. I have a book with this cover, not a CD.
LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
The children are a bit wiser in this installment of their adventures, though they still manage to have terrible trouble with their wishes. A fun ending.
LibraryThing member antiquary
The second of the Five Children series. While my personal favorite was te Psammead in the first viklume, the Phoenix in the second story, vain but wise, is a very distinct personality, whose rather forsoothly language sticks in my mind.
LibraryThing member antiquary
See comments on my other copy. I am struck by how much the phoenix in this book matches the personality of the phoenix in David and the Phoenix, but I sup[pose the latter, having been written later, could have been influenced by this. I believe this was our original copy and nearly loved to death
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--the cover is getting loose.
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LibraryThing member mrsdanaalbasha
This middle volume of the trilogy that began with Five Children and It and concludes with The Story of the Amulet deviates somewhat from the other two because the Psammead gets only a brief mention, and because in this volume the children live with both of their parents and their younger
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brother—the Lamb—in their home in London. Consequently, there is less loneliness and sense of loss in this volume than in the other two. In both of the other volumes, circumstances have forced the children to spend a protracted period away from their familiar London home and their father; in Amulet, their mother and the Lamb are absent as well.

A continuing theme throughout The Phoenix and the Carpet is, appropriately enough, the ancient element of fire. The story begins shortly before November 5, celebrated in England as Guy Fawkes Night. Traditionally, children light bonfires and set off fireworks on this night. The four children have accumulated a small hoard of fireworks but are too impatient to wait until November 5 to light them, so they set off a few samples in the girls' bedroom. This results in a fire that destroys the carpet.

Their parents purchase a second-hand carpet which, upon arrival, is found to contain an egg that emits a weird phosphorescent glow. The children place this egg near the fire: it hatches, revealing a golden Phoenix who speaks perfect English.

It develops that this is a magical carpet, which can transport the children to anywhere they wish in the present time, although it is only capable of three wishes per day. Accompanied by the Phoenix, the children have exotic adventures in various climes. There is one moment of terror for the children when their youngest brother, the Lamb, crawls onto the carpet, babbles some incoherent baby talk, and vanishes. Fortunately, the Lamb only desired to be with his mother.

At a few points in the novel, the children find themselves in predicaments from which the Phoenix is unable to rescue them by himself; he goes to find the Psammead and has a wish granted for the children's sake. In addition, in the end, the carpet is sent to ask the Psammead to grant the Phoenix's wish. These offstage incidents are the only contribution made by the Psammead to this story.

The Phoenix and the Carpet features some intriguing depictions of London during the reign of Edward VII. At one point, the children and their supernatural bird visit the Phoenix Fire Insurance Company: the egotistical Phoenix assumes that this is his modern-day temple, and the insurance executives must be his acolytes. The children also have an encounter with two older ruffians named Herb and Ike who attempt to steal the Phoenix.

Possibly the most interesting chapter in this novel occurs when the four children attend a Christmas pantomime at a West End theatre, smuggling the Phoenix along inside Robert's coat. The Phoenix is so excited by this spectacle that he unintentionally sets fire to the theatre. In Edwardian times, many theatres in Britain and the United States were fire-traps, and it was not unusual for a conflagration in a theatre to produce hundreds of deaths. This chapter is vivid and highly convincing, but all ends well when the Phoenix magically reverses the damage: no one is harmed, and the theatre remains intact.

One aspect of The Phoenix and the Carpet that is atypical for children's fantasy fiction is the fact that, in this story, the magical companion does not treat all the children equally. The Phoenix insists on favouring Robert- the child who actually put his egg in the fire, albeit by accident- over his brother Cyril and their sisters. This is a mixed privilege, as Robert is lumbered with the duty of smuggling the Phoenix past their parents at inconvenient moments.

In the novel's final chapter, the Phoenix announces that he has reached the end of his current lifespan and must begin the cycle again (apparently on the grounds that life with the children has left him far more exhausted than he would have been in the wilderness). Under the Phoenix's direction, the children prepare an altar with sweet incense, upon which the Phoenix immolates himself. The magical carpet has also reached the end of its span, as it was never intended for regular walking, vanishing with the Phoenix's egg. There is a happy ending, with the children receiving a parcel of gifts from an unknown benefactor, and Robert receiving a single golden feather. But the feather has vanished by the evening and it is truly the last of the Phoenix and the Carpet.

The last volume in the series, The Story of the Amulet, contains a minor episode in which the children travel thousands of years into the past and encounter the Phoenix, who does not recognise them because, in his linear timeline, the events of the previous book have not happened yet.
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LibraryThing member Crowyhead
Definitely a childhood favorite.
LibraryThing member foggidawn
Cyril, Robert, Anthea, and Jane are rather hard on their belongings. When their old nursery carpet is destroyed in an accident with some fireworks, their mother replaces it with a bargain carpet from a salesman. When that carpet arrives, it is rolled around an egg with a most extraordinary
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appearance — and when that egg accidentally falls into the fire, a new set of adventures begins.

I always enjoy Nesbit’s books. Such good characters, and such fantastical plots! This book is actually the sequel to Five Children and It, but it’s not necessary to have read that book (I hadn’t, and I was able to follow along just fine). I’m a little sad that I never read these books as a child, because I know I would have enjoyed them!
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LibraryThing member john257hopper
This is the sequel to Nesbit's Five Children and It that I read last month. I remembered this affectionately from a TV adaptation in the 1970s, but I must admit I didn't find this quite as engaging as its predecessor. Again, the story relies on them getting the wishes they choose wrong and ending
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up in various scrapes, but somehow these did not engage as much in this one. Perhaps this was partly due to there being no illustrations in my edition, which added to my enjoyment of the first novel, and of The Railway Children. All that said, still a good children's story that a reader of any age can enjoy.
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½ (305 ratings; 3.9)
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