Think that authors in the past had no sense of humor?  Think again.

E. (Evelyn) Nesbit was most famous for her fantasy stories, but there is no magic (of the fantasy kind) in this series of humorous stories is about the escapades of a group of siblings as they try to make money for their family when they fall on hard times, “improve” their behavior by forming a club to perform good deeds (which end up being just the opposite), and generally get themselves into one well-meaning scrape after another.

The stories are told from the point of view of Oswald, the oldest of the boys in the family, and part of the humor is that Oswald thinks that he’s being subtle in his narration when he definitely isn’t.  In the first book, he starts off trying to be mysterious about who is really narrating the story, but he quickly gives himself away by talking about himself in the first person and flattering his character as much as possible.

Generally, fans of the series think that the first book is the best one, with the others being not quite as good.  Part of the criticism is that the humor in the books seems to be frequently intended more for the adults reading the stories to children than to the children themselves.  It has been made into a movie.  All of the books are public domain and available on Project Gutenberg.

Books in the Series:

The Story of the Treasure Seekers (1899)

When their family falls on hard times, the Bastable children come up with wild schemes to restore their family’s fortunes.  This book is public domain and available on Project Gutenberg.

The Wouldbegoods (1901)

The Bastable children are at it again!  After their latest escapades go too far, the children are sent off to the country for awhile.  There, they make a couple of new friends and form a club to perform good deeds and try to improve themselves.  Of course, their attempts at good deeds don’t go as planned and end up causing more problems than they solve.  This book is public domain and is available on Project Gutenberg.

New Treasure Seekers (1904)

The further adventures of the Bastable children.  This book is public domain and is available on Project Gutenberg.

Oswald Bastable and Others (1905)

A collection of short stories.  This book is public domain and is available on Project Gutenberg.