Nesbit published approximately 40 books for children, including novels, collections of stories and picture books. Collaborating with others, she published almost as many more.
Nesbit was “the first modern writer for children”: Nesbit “helped to reverse the great tradition of children’s literature inaugurated by Lewis Carroll, George MacDonald and Kenneth Grahame, in turning away from their secondary worlds to the tough truths to be won from encounters with things-as-they-are, previously the province of adult novels.” Briggs also credits Nesbit with having invented the children’s adventure story. Noël Coward was a great admirer of hers and, in a letter to an early biographer Noel Streatfeild, wrote “she had an economy of phrase, and an unparalleled talent for evoking hot summer days in the English countryside.”
Among Nesbit’s best-known books are The Story of the Treasure Seekers (1899) and The Wouldbegoods (1901), which both recount stories about the Bastables, a middle-class family that has fallen on (relatively) hard times. The Railway Children is also known from its adaptation into a 1970 film version. Gore Vidal called the time-travel book, The Story of the Amulet one in which “Nesbit’s powers of invention are at their best.” Her children’s writing also included numerous plays and collections of verse.