E. Nesbit isn't a household name in the United States. Yet in the Edwardian period, she wrote a great many books, both for adults and children. It is those she wrote for children that have endured. C. S. Lewis was a great admirer of hers, and Nesbit's influence is clear in his much-loved Narnia books.
I saw this film under the American title "Return of the Sand Fairy" on television. Unlike "Five Children and It" (the American "The Sand Fairy", "Return of the Psammead" was not based on a novel by E. Nesbit, and it shows. Although Nesbit's works are old-fashioned, she was funny and understood how to write to children. Her children get into plenty of entertaining trouble, often with the best intentions.
So it is here. The Psammead (sammy-ad) lives in a sandpit and grants wishes. He's a charming creature, looking much like the original illustrations, and when whining and complaining is just right. Francis Wright voices him superbly. The four children are not obtrusively modern, and the adult parts are all Nesbit stock characters, difficult aunt, dreadful housekeeper, friendly cook and nanny.
My main problem with "Return of the Psammead" was in one episode (spoiler) in which one of the children wishes to go to the future. It simply did not fit the rest of the story. The future, as the old cliché has it, is now. E. Nesbit's characters do go into the future, but not like that. I have to say I didn't like the "wishing is good" song at the end. After the Psammead constantly tells the children to think before they wish, and that the wishes always backfire, it did not work at all.
"Five Children and It" does have a sequel: "The Phoenix and the Carpet" that is as good or better. Invented sequels such as this rarely work, and I'm sorry to say this is no exception.
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