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Narnia!!! A review of this beloved series by C.S. Lewis

10/29/2012 10:58

 

As always, just the opinions of myself and my family-the Young-Thomas clan.  I am not a teacher or child psychologist.  I didn’t write any of these books and don’t claim to be an expert, just one dad/family giving advice to others for fun-don’t take this to be anything else!  Have fun and read!

AGE? This book series is probably best suited for the seven year old to eleven year old crowd, although you will have to watch that.  A sensitive seven year old might not handle the some of the gorier scenes and some ten and eleven year olds will be bored out of their minds.  Summary: best ages: 8-9 years old  Range: 7-11 years old (of course, many adults love to read these as well.  We are just suggesting an age to get them started with the series).

RATING? All three of my kids happened to love these books.  Some critic it as too heavy on the Christian themes, I think if you are Christian and want to explain the analogies it will likely make sense to your kids.  If you are not Christian I would say 99.9% of kids would not pick up on any of these themes on their own unless they already had a strong Christian upbringing (the exception is The Last Battle-see that review below).

The one obvious tie in is when Santa Claus shows up-although this has turned into a secular symbol, and could be overlooked if you wanted to.  So, I think this issue is not a determining factor (make it want you want, i.e. you can talk about it or just leave it as a fantasy story).

The overall series gets 4 1/2 out of 5 stars for its durability across generations and is a great launching pad into other fantasy books.  Please see summaries below for individual book ratings!

 

 

I fell in love with this series as a child, the Narnia series by Clive Staples Lewis (better known as C.S. Lewis or Jack Lewis to his friends) was a favorite in our house and I loved rereading them with each of my three children.  The first question you have to answer is what order do you want to read the books?  Should be simple right?  Unfortunately, not in the slightest.  You have three basic choices: chronological (i.e. this reading follows the time line of events in the world of Narnia); order of publication (i.e. read them as they were originally published); or you could read them in the order C.S. Lewis finished them.

You will hear as many opinions as people you ask.  Before I get in to the details, let me give you my two cents.  If your child is a huge fantasy fan, just pick one of the above and they will be happy.  My three loved reading them in chronological order.  If your child is not a fantasy fan, or you are not sure, read the first three books published: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (published 1950), Prince Caspian (1951), and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952).

Why?  Well, they are undoubtably the most famous and likely to hold your child’s attention.  If your kids love the stories, then the vast majority of children will not be confused by going back and reading the rest of the series.

Now, to the meat of the problem.  I find it most fitting to list them in one of three of ways:  The first is the chronological order of the story (i.e the timeline flows sequentially through them in this order).

  1. The Magician’s Nephew
  2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  3. The Horse and His Boy
  4. Prince Caspian
  5. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  6. The Silver Chair
  7. The Last Battle

The second way to look at the books on Narnia is order of original publication:

  1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  2. Prince Caspian
  3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  4. The Silver Chair
  5. The Horse and His Boy
  6. The Magician’s Nephew
  7. The Last Battle

The third way to think about reading this series is order they were completed (I must say, not the most practical way to go, but would be perhaps interesting to do as a re-read).  Dates in italics are when he finished them.

  1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe-03/1949
  2. Prince Caspian-12/1949
  3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader-02/1950
  4. The Horse and His Boy-07/1950
  5. The Silver Chair-03/1951
  6. The Last Battle-03/1953
  7. The Magician’s Nephew-02/1954

 

 

Summary of the Books:

1.  The Magician’s Nephew: this book starts us off with two children in 1900 (Digory Kirke and Polly Plummer).  What is fun, is that Digory is the Professor in the The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe!  It is said that this novel took Lewis the longest to write (some six years).  This book goes back and describes the origins of Narnia and answers the perplexing question of how a lamp post ended up in the middle of the Narnian forest!  The British school children meet the evil Queen Jadis and Aslan himself in this story that tells how it all began!  Rating: 4 1/2 stars

2.  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: four Pevensie siblings are sent to the countryside to avoid the aerial bombings of WW II.  Peter, Susan, Edmund, and little Lucy end up at Professor Kirke’s estate and find the portal into Narnia (the wardrobe).  Edmund is seduced by the White Witch, but ultimately they forgive his actions and the four children help Aslan establish the “golden age” of Narnia and defeat the witch.  There are some intense moments when Aslan is made to suffer at the hands of the White Witch and her evil minions.  Rating: 5 stars

3.  The Horse and His Boy: I would say this was not only mine, but my children’s least favorite book of the series.  We thought the first half of the book tended to drag on, but it really picks up at the end.  Perhaps the disagreement in rating is because the focus is a boy, Shasta, who is basically a slave in the Kingdom of Calorman.  Perhaps it is the title.  I know we found it odd that it comes across that the horse is the owner of the boy.  Anyway, Shasta ends up with two talking horses (Bree and Hwin) and a young princess Aravis.  The group will meet many perils on their quest for freedom and to help avert Calorman from taking over Narnia.  Rating 3 1/2 stars (note two of my kids voted four and one a two.  I voted 3 1/2 so we settled on this).

4.  Prince Caspian: Once again the Pevensie’s are drawn back to Narnia.  This time it is in response to hunted Prince Caspian’s plea for help in the form of Susan’s old magical horn.  It is distressing for them to discover their kingdom has been swallowed by time and vegetation and Narnia is ruled by the villian, Miraz.  The children’s egos battle it out as they try to save Narnia once again!  Rating: 4 1/2 stars.

5.  The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: This time only Edmund and Lucy get to return to Narnia to help Prince Caspian on his journey across the sea to find the seven lost lords of Narnia.  They are joined by their always entertaining, and often annoying, cousin Eustace.  This is my oldest son’s favorite book.  I read it with him twice and he read it another two or three times!  There is peril, mystery, and high adventure!  Plus, who doesn’t like a story with a dragon?  Rating 5 stars plus the NYT best loved/seller award (NYT stands for the Neville Young-Thomas award-it has nothing to do with the paper-not that anyone would confuse us!)

6.The Silver Chair: The second most derisive book in the series according the my kids.  Two of them loved it, one just liked it.  I think, like The Horse and His Boy, it is sometimes hard to read a Narnian tale without the beloved Pevensie children!  Here we get to see Eustace with one of his school mates, Jill Pole enter Narnia.  Their quest is to find the long lost son of Prince Caspian (Prince Rilian).  I happen to love the character of Puddleglum (the Marsh-Wiggle) who helps them on their quest and the giants are wonderful and very colorful as well!  Rating 4 1/2 stars

7.The Last Battle: The character we met in The Silver Chair, Jill Pole, is back with Eustace as we see the end of Narnia.  The Calorman god Tash is pitted against Narnia’s Aslan and its last King Tirian.  This somewhat dark series finale has the odd couple of Shift (an ape) and a dim-witted Donkey Puzzle finding a lion skin and trying to pass Puzzle off as Aslan himself.  Anyway, this book has many passages that come across as racist towards non-Caucasians and ends somewhat suddenly when Aslan comes in to divide the good and the bad up.  Of all the books, this has the strongest religious overtones and along with the racist quality bring the rating down for our family.  Despite some nice reunions, this book has many dark themes.  Rating: 3 stars.

references: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chronicles_of_Narnia, Magic our cat, Rin and Tin our dogs!