'The Five Jars' was published by M. R. James in 1922, and is, as far as I'm aware, his only children's novel. I wish that I'd had the chance to read this as a child, for it is a truly captivating story; it's very hard to come by (my copy set me back a fair price), and I advise all E2parents who are the type to like to read their child a bedtime story at night to print all of these off to do that whole parent-child bonding ritual; it's a classic in the way of E. Nesbit, C.S. Lewis and George MacDonald. And similar to these writers, it's a story that can be equally, if differently, enjoyed by adults.
The book is essentially a long letter from a scholar, M (or N), to a young child called Jane, detailing his discovering of a chest containing five jars, and the adventure that ensues from this discovery. It's a wonderfully odd tale, and so very British in its writing; a tendency to homey prosaicness, despite the fact that the narrator appears to consuming magic mushrooms and other hallucinogens all over the shop. A more staid and genial Hunter S. Thompson, if you will.
You see, that's what I love about reading children's novels as an adult. They prove to me that, despite all evidence to the contrary, I was once upon a time an innocent, and that a man eating a "special plant" and hearing a spring talk to him was a magical event; not something I myself could experience if I just went down to the field over the way and picked out some of those mushrooms that all the big kids seem to keep getting all excited about.
Then again, I still feel violated by discovering that the Narnia series was, on reading as an adult, 'The Bible for Kids'. So maybe it's not all good.
I'm having to transcribe all of this by hand,
so it may take me a while – I'll try to achieve a chapter a week, but I'm not making any promises. If you haven't seen one in a while, poke me or something. Update: Have now finished the job. Sorry it took so long, guys!
The First Jar
The Second Jar
The Small People
Danger to the Jars
The Cat, Wag, Slim and Others
Wag at Home