Like other E. Nesbit stories, The Phoenix and the Carpet was initially published in The Strand Magazine. While The Railway Children or Five Children and It proved more popular, Phoenix has still been adapted into three BBC TV series and a film.
The story picks up some time after the events of Five Children and It. The children are back in London and encounter another ancient, magical creature: this time a noble, beautiful, arrogant, and vain Phoenix. He comes with a magic carpet which the gang uses to go on adventures around the world. Some things don’t go as planned, but there are still opportunities to make others happy.
As a female British author of children stories, E. Nesbit was not a typical early 20th century woman. Described as tomboy during her childhood, she grew up a staunch supporter of democratic socialism in a time when many were crushed under poverty. She was a founding member of the Fabian Society, and dedicated herself to charity work, so much so that she almost ended up in poverty.
Nesbit’s stories continue to fascinate readers. Her dry wit and respect with which she engages children ensures that adults can also enjoy her tales. Her depiction of magic—how it follows rules which must be taught or learned, and the painful consequences when they are forgotten—has influenced the works of other writers such as P. L. Travers, C. S. Lewis, and J. K. Rowling.