HarperCollins, 1950 189 pgs
Chronicles of Narnia Series, book 2
Four siblings are evacuated during WWII from their London home to the countryside in order to be out of harm's way during the bombings. They are placed in a rambling old house owned by an eccentric elderly bachelor, who gives them the run of the place and leads them to believe that anything is possible. While playing hide and seek the youngest, Lucy, hides in a wardrobe and, while digging through the hanging coats, finds herself in a land of snow. She naturally enters the land in order to explore and meets a kind faun who becomes her friend. Mr. Tumnus takes Lucy home for tea and tells her about this magical land called Narnia, where it is always winter, but never Christmas, all thanks to its ruler: the evil White Witch. Once back with her family, no one believes poor Lucy, who becomes despondent that she is not taken seriously. The next time Lucy enters the wardrobe, brother Edmund is right behind her. Once in Narnia Edmund meets the White Witch and is seduced by her confection of Turkish Delight. He agrees to return with his siblings and hand them over to the witch. When Edmund arrives back home he denies the existence of Narnia only to annoy his younger sister. Finally, Lucy is redeemed when all four siblings land in Narnia. Mr. Tumnus is missing and after an encounter with a beaver couple the children decide to journey with their new friends to a distant location where the legendary Aslan is said to have returned in order to overthrow the witch. But where is Edmund? He has escaped to find his witch and taste more Turkish Delight. What follows is a tale of redemption and forgiveness with good overcoming evil, complete with magical creatures, thrilling battle scenes, and a satisfying conclusion.
January is always classic month with my book discussion groups and this title is my choice for the third/fourth grade crew. I spent many wonderful hours in Narnia growing up and have since read the book probably five times as an adult for work purposes. It continues to delight and transport me in a delicious and enchanting manner. An original fairy tale in the classic style, Lewis writes this story in such beautiful and rich language that it begs to be read aloud. Magical creatures abound, both good and evil, and talking animals with distinct personalities run a-muck. The magic is believable and wondrous and even the children are given magical vehicles that they use in different circumstances to save the day. Edmund is the quintessential younger brother, who falls into negative behavior in order to make himself important. He finally sees the error of his ways and gains forgiveness. The other children are a bit one-dimensional, but the reader will root for them and wish to emulate them. This book, although over half a century old, will still be enjoyed by young readers. It is dated in its portrayal of women (the girls are discouraged from fighting), the language, and the complete independence of the children as they play wild and explore their environment without adults supervising. Father Christmas is a character in the book who grants the children magical elements, which may put off non-Christian readers. Also, it should be said that scholars believe that Lewis wrote the book as an allegory for Christian principals and the the death, and resurrection of Jesus. Honestly, as a child I never saw that. I learned about the symbolism once I was in college. Readers of all faiths will enjoy the story and the Christian symbolism is not obvious unless you are looking for it. A wonderful story that has stood the test of time that will transport the reader to a magical land where they will make fabulous new friends.