What made Nesbit “modern” in the genre of children’s literature? Instead of simply tossing kids into pure fantasies such as Alice’s descent, or Toad’s world in The Wind in the Willows, she dealt with the prickly interactions of kids and their world.
Consider the basic elements in this year’s Cocoon offering, which was made into a film starring Freddie Highmore, Kenneth Branagh and the voice of Eddie Izzard six years ago. The five brothers and sisters at the center of the adventure call each other Squirrel, Panther, Bobs, Pussy and the Lamb. “It,” the grumpy, ugly-as-all-get-out and somewhat malevolent Sand Fairy whom they uncover in an old gravel pit after moving with their parents from London to the countryside, is a Psammead: a term that Nesbit made up out of solid etymological roots for this book.
The plot ensues when It has to grant the children a flurry of wishes, all which tend to disappear by sunset – and which, in the end, all tend to have odd results, from being “beautiful as the day” to growing wings, or ensuring that everyone love the Lamb, resulting in his near-kidnapping, or that he “grow up,” whereby he becomes an “unpleasant and condescending” older man. In other words, it’s a grand recipe for holiday fare, as if ordered by parents to ensure that their kids get through the maze of desires represented by the coming weeks without becoming total brats.
Five Children and It will run Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m., December 10 through 19 at the Cocoon Theatre, located at 6384 Mill Street (Route 9), directly across from the Beekman Arms in the center of Rhinebeck. For further information and reservations, call (845) 876-6470 or visit www.cocoontheatre.org.