Book 2, The Chronicles of Narnia
Each year I love the focus that my “October Reading Series” gives to my reading list, I plan all September compiling lists of scary, haunting thrillers to read in the countdown the Halloween. It occurred to me this might be a nice tradition to apply to November as well and I gave some thought to what the month of November represents to me and what sort of books might highlight those traditions. Since November is a month of cozy family time with a sharp focus on thankfulness, I decided that I would turn my attention to children’s literature this month. To me, children’s literature uniquely captures what “family” really means and it’s books are full of wonderful examples of caring, loving, families (formed in all manner of traditional and non-traditional ways) and many center on themes such as acceptance, perseverance, forgiveness, and thankfulness…all great virtues to focus during the month of Thanksgiving.
I choose The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe as my first Children’s literature book to revisit this month since it is a perennial favorite among all three of my sons and a book I deeply enjoy reading out-loud to them. In fact, for quite a few months last year we kept our copy of this book in our car and read a chapter or two every time we found ourselves with time to spare (car pick up lines, waiting rooms, soccer practices that ran long), what we dubbed our “minivan book club.”
In this wonderful, gorgeously written novel we follow the story of four London children — Edmund, Lucy, Susan and Peter Pevensie — who have been evacuated from London to escape the Blitz. Packed off to a rural country estate with the mysterious Professor, an “odd looking man with white shaggy hair” who welcomed the children into his home but largely ignored them.
As is common in children’s literature, the action starts in the very first pages, when Lucy finds a wardrobe that is no only filled with thick fur coats but also a doorway to a parallel universe. Filled with talking animals, mythical creatures, evil queens, eavesdropping trees, and a brewing battle between good and evil, Lucy has discovered Narnia.
Although it takes some convincing, Lucy first leads Edmund (whose dark nature leads him to lie about his adventures in Narnia to the others in order to torture Lucy) and then the others into Narnia. There the children find that themselves at the center of a world divided — those in support of the White Witch and those who are waiting for the rightful rulers of Narnia to take their thrones — and they quickly learn that many residents of Narnia believe they are the four rulers who have been long proselytized to arrive in Narnia to defeat the White Witch.
With little warning the four find themselves the unofficial leaders of the resistance movement who must evade capture, lead thousands, and prepare for war…all while still young children.
What follows is a story about four children who overcome their own fears, and their petty grievances with one another, to do what is right: to restore freedom and peace to Narnia. It makes perfect sense that this story would emerge in the years following WW2. In real world England the children are powerless, driven from their home by a terrifying war that has already killed so many people that they know and, across the Channel, millions of others. In Narnia, the siblings are powerful and capable of stopping the war and defeating evil…in them are the inherent skills needed to change the world.
Told in clear easy to understand prose with plenty of action, this is a book that children as young as 5 can understand and enjoy as a read-aloud and it is easily read by independent elementary school readers. A classic for a reason.