The Ship that Flew, by Hilda Lewis, for Timeslip Tuesday

It might be a worn out cliche, but, gee, there really are books that I wish I had read when I was young, before the veil of cynicism descended (or something like that), keeping me from happy acceptance and enjoyment....In short, I would have loved The Ship that Flew, by Hilda Lewis (1958) if I had read it when I was nine or so.

As it was, I still managed to enjoy reading it for the first time last weekend. It is a story very much in the E. Nesbit/Edward Eager vein, a story of four children who find a magic object that opens a way to magical adventures. In this case, it is a tiny ship, that Peter, the oldest boy, finds in a mysterious shop on a mysterious street he'd never before seen. The ship can fly, through time and space, and it takes Peter, and his siblings--Sheila, Humphrey, and Sandy--on a journey to Asgard itself, and flies them back to ancient Egypt, Norman England, and the time of Robin Hood.

Each adventure is fraught with some danger and suspense, as is the way of these things. On each journey they meet with new friends, and occasional enemies...And although the friendships perhaps come too easily (I think the Norman lord's daughter and the son of the Pharaoh perhaps to quick to cast suspicion aside), the adventures are diverting, the magic captivating.

I especially liked the bit where the children bring Matilda (the Norman girl) into their own time for a visit--yes, her astonishment at running water, etc., was not new to me, but it was fun nonetheless. And it was one of the few parts of the book set in our time, where the intersection of magic and reality got to play out a little bit (the adventures in the past are more or less encapsulated episodes).

There wasn't, as is the case with (most) Nesbit and (most) Eager, a larger story arc holding things together, and this, for me in my grownup-ness, was the main weakness of the book. Nor was there any difficult with the magic--the ship was entirely co-operative, ready even to clad the children in appropriate garments, and solve pesky difficulties of language, and so there was less tension than one finds in the works of the two masters, and this too I found to weaken the story.

But do try to find this one for your magic-loving child who thinks Nesbit's Phoenix and the Carpet and Eager's Knight's Castle are the creme de la creme of books, and who, perhaps, was lucky enough to have been given last year's Any Which Wall, by Laurel Snyder, to read. They might very well love this one unequivocally (as all the five star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads from those who read it young show).

(The 1998 re-issue seems to be still in print in the UK, so it's readily available)


  1. I hope I'm not too old to enjoy this! I wish I'd had it when I was a little kid, because I loved Edward Eager and E. Nesbit (to a lesser extent).

  2. I hope so too, Jenny! Let me know!

  3. When I read the title, I though, "ooh! Another Ship That ___ novel!" Except that this ... isn't. ;)

  4. It's years since I read this book - must go back and find it for a re-read. Talking of nesbit, have you read her 'The Enchanted Castle'? I LOVE that one!

  5. My husband has told me about this very special book. He read it as a child and just loved it so much. He could not remember the total or the author so I Googled to story line and finally found it!!!!!
    I ordered a copy and will surprise him on Father's Day!

  6. I'm so glad! Thanks for letting me know.

  7. The Ship That Flew was my very favorite book when I was a child, along with the Oz books. I liked Eager and Nesbit as well, but The Ship That Flew was the absolute BEST! I am now in my early 60's and am giving a copy to my great-niece who is turning 9. I asked my older sister recently if she remembered this book, and she said "Of course!" I feel sorry for anyone who didn't get to read it as a child ... which is why I'm giving it to my great niece!

    1. I feel sorry for me too not to have read it as a child, though I'm glad I did as an adult!


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