Harlan Ellison writes in his introduction to this short story that ‘‘Jeffty Is Five’’ is one of his ‘‘half dozen favorite stories.’’ It is also an award-winning short story, having picked up both a Nebula Award in 1977, the year it was first published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and the Hugo Award in 1978. Ellison goes on to say that ‘‘Jeffty Is Five’’ ‘‘has become an image of reverence for the parts of my childhood that were joyous and free of pain.’’
Reading ‘‘Jeffty Is Five’’ makes one believe that childhood, especially that brief time after a child develops a grasp of language and imagination but before that imagination is cornered by the demands of a disciplined schooling, is a time of magic. This magic is so strong, Ellison believes, that it is sad that a person ever has to outgrow it. That is the premise of the story, as Jeffty, the main focus of the story, never grows past the age of five.
In some ways, Ellison admits that a large part of him, even as an adult, is Jeffty. Through his story, Ellison demonstrates and encourages adults to remember that five-year-old child within them, to remember the magic despite the fact that they have adult responsibilities and other distractions. His story encourages everyone to maintain, as much as possible, that sense of innocence and awe that a child naturally exhibits. The story also encourages the reader to keep the treasures of the past alive. ‘‘There are treasures of the Past,’’ Ellison writes, ‘‘that we seem too quickly brutally [sic] ready to dump down the incinerator of Progress.’’ In an exaggerated tone, ‘‘Jeffty Is Five’’ reminds everyone not to throw out their child-within in the name of progress.