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C. S. Lewis' Letters to Children
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60 of 60 people found the following review helpful
It is said that as regularly as the mail arrived, professor Lewis sat down at his desk and personally responded... even if the correspondents were little children who had come to know of him through his Narnia books. In fact, he felt it was his God-given duty to do so! "C.S. Lewis: Letters to Children" is a collection of these heartfelt responses, spanning nearly 20 years (1944-1963).
Lewis's own direct contact with children was limited. He once said, "I theoretically hold that one ought to like children, but am shy with them in practice." (Letter to Arthur Greeves, Dec.'35). And in his "The Abolition of Man" he says (chap.1, para.11) "I myself do not enjoy the society of small children... I recognize this as a defect in myself." What he may have lacked in direct contact with children he certainly seems to have displaced with these personal letters, in which we see a lofty Oxford academic who is able to freely converse with children about such diverse topics as (of all things) Zoroastrianism, cats, the Gauls, Virgilian hexameter, the Renaissance, and his opinion that human faces are much easier to draw than animal faces. Never does he talk DOWN to his younger "friends". He usually signs off with an affectionate "yours ever"! And often he sprinkles a question or two of his own in a letter, which, rather than dismissing the sender, invites a response, showing he values these children. For example, an American girl (Joan) received 28 letters from Lewis over a 20 year period!
Why do I give this book a rating of 5 stars? Is the writing as deep, weighty, and significant as War & Peace? Not even remotely. But, to me, it is remarkable that an academician/author of the caliber of C.S. Lewis found the time to write such beautiful simple letters to inquiring kids all over the world. There's something very refreshing (for Lewis fans like me at least) about picking this book up and just turning at random to any letter. One ends with "It is still cold here but the snowdrops, crocuses, primroses and daffodils are up and the thrushes are building nests." Or another "Well, I can't say I have had a happy Easter, for I have lately got married and my wife is very, very ill." Such disclosure is an example of the respect Lewis felt children worthy of. One word of caution though: Does a proper appreciation of this book require a familiarity with Lewis's works? Quite frankly: Yes! The Narnia books! Because so many of the letters are alluding to Narnia, readers unfamiliar with that cycle of books may find most of this book quite boring.
Lewis never tired of corresponding with his child fans. His final letter, to a boy named Philip was written on November 21, 1963. The following day Lewis passed away peacefully at his Oxford home. Earlier, he had written the following to a group of fifth graders:
"I'm tall, fat, rather bald, red-faced, double-chinned, black-haired, have a deep voice, and wear glasses for reading.
The only way for us to get to Aslan's country is through death, as far as I know: perhaps some very good people get just a tiny glimpse before then.
Best love to you all. When you say your prayers sometimes ask God to bless me,
Yours ever, C.S. Lewis"
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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on September 17, 2000
This little book is short and very, very sweet. It reads almost like a literary fountain of youth. Each letter to each child is personal, enthusiastic, and never ever dull. Often, I'd read these letters, feeling sometimes that they were written just for me; not me, personally, but for all Lewis enthusiasts, especially the young and young at heart. The letters are full of useful, interesting information and express Lewis's greatest joys and deepest sorrows (i.e. the passing of his beloved wife, Joy).
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on February 4, 1998
These eminently readable letters to children over the last 19 years of Lewis's life cover a surprisingly wide variety of topics (many being responses to thoughtful questions from the children who wrote to him). Most of the children began corresponding with Lewis after reading books from his CHRONICLES OF NARNIA series, and Lewis's responses are neither patronizing nor somber, but rather sincere and often humorous. Readers from gradeschool to adulthood levels will enjoy wandering through this lively correspondence.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on June 29, 2000
This wonderful book is a collection of C.S. Lewis's responses to various childrens letters regarding Lewis's masterworks, the Narnia chronicles. This book is an intimate, sesitive collection, readable by all ages. This is a personal, gentle book, perfect for reading on a sunday afternoon. Each of the letters is kind and polite, even with or without the absence of the deeply personal questions. Lewis answers every single letter.
The cover image was nicely chosen, also. It is subtle, consisting of watercolors, giving the book a sort of light, delicate feel. It sets the feeling for the book perfectly. Everyone can read this book. Its is a thoughtful, touching collection.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on May 15, 2002
Every time I read another book by C.S. Lewis I become more grateful for his life and his writings. This book is a gem, and a wonderful window into Lewis' soul. He answers these children's letters with self-effacing grace and humor, and with a sincere respect for their opinions and their dignity. While being a great writer has no particular connection with being a good person, this book is, to me, irresistable evidence of Lewis' personal goodness. The Angler (as he once referred to God in "Surprised by Joy") snared a fine specimen when he snared the soul of C.S. Lewis.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 6, 2006
Lewis is largely known for his "Screwtape Letters," "Chronicles of Narnia," and "Mere Christianity." He ranges from the steeply theological to captivating children's fiction. What "Letters to Children" does is bridge the two worlds.

Bear in mind it is a collection of letters, not polished literature. You get a lot of asides and witticisms that one might say off-handedly to someone one never expects to talk to again. He thanks children for correcting the punctuation in his book. He always mentions the dreary weather in England. And he notes more than once that the children always seem to know who Aslan is, even when their parents don't get it.

But what is priceless about the book is that it captures a part of Lewis that he himself observes in his autobiographical essays. He is not particularly interested in or even familiar with children; he simply shares with them the same interest in great story-telling. Perhaps the best letter is the one in which he gives a little girl several tips on good writing. He encourages the children to write stories of their own. He almost discusses books with them the way you would expect him to with his colleagues at Oxford and Cambridge, and he gives children just that much respect. Lewis has an adult mind and a boy's heart, and that is why many of us continue to be in love with Lewis.

"Letters to Children" is a great read for the Lewis connoisseur who wants to know more of how his mind worked.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 2000
This wonderful book is a collection of C.S. Lewis's responses to various childrens letters regarding Lewis's masterworks, the Narnia chronicles. This book is an intimate,sesitive collection, readable by all ages. This is a personal, gentle book, perfect for reading on a sunday afternoon. Each of the letters is kind and polite, with or without the absence of the deeply personal questions. Lewis answers every single letter.
The cover image was nicely chosen, also. It is subtle, consisting of delicately drawn watercolors. It sets the feeling for the book perfectly. Everyone can read this book. It is a thoughtful, touching collection of letters.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2010
In "The Kilns" where C.S. Lewis lived with his brother Warren, the postman would deliver stacks of cards and letters daily. Lewis replied conscientiously to each, seeking to encourage his writers in the hope of the gospel. He seemed never to have forgotten the imaginative ways of children. He and Warnie, as he called his brother, kept their own imaginary country Boxen alive for as long as they lived.

This book is a compilation of those cards and letters. As well, it includes a foreword from Lewis's step-son, Douglas Gresham, and a synopsis of his childhood.

C.S. Lewis said that "all settled happiness, all that was tranquil and reliable, disappeared from my life" (p. 14) upon the death of his mother when he was only 9. His loving father was unable to meet the needs of his boys, and so they were sent away to boarding school. Life improved for Jack when he was 16. He was sent to Great Bookham, Surrey, England for 2 years' study with a private tutor named Professor W.T. Kirkpatrick. Nicknamed Kirk and the Great Knock, this brilliant teacher appears in the Narnian books as Professor Digory Kirke. Lewis said he owed a huge debt to this man. Lewis then attended Oxford on scholarship, entered service in W.W. I, and commenced his 40 year long academic career at both Oxford and Cambridge.
Here's how he described himself to one of his young writers: "I'm tall, fat, rather bald, red-faced, double-chinned, black-haired, have a deep voice, and wear glasses for reading." He ended many of his letters with a request that the writer include him in his prayers, and often promised himself to pray for his writers. Although he would sometimes complain, "There are dreadful mails at present--I write letters all day--it spoils Christmas completely" he never laid aside this burden of answering his letters. When he was unable to respond he would have his brother or secretary attend to his more insistent writers. His love for children and animals was plain in these letters. On occasion, he would correct the writer's submissions and sometimes caught himself sermonizing, but the truly amazing thing is that he wrote all these hundreds of letters by hand. (He said he did not type.)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2000
This book answered many of my questions about the Chronicals of Narnia. As I read this book, I was amazed at how Lewis corresponded with people. He responded to every one of the letters he recieved. I could never do that.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2002
This is one book I had wanted to read for along time. It just seemed like an excellent idea to be able to experience an author in this extraordinary way, communicating with his number one fans: kids.
Sadly, when I read it, I didn't like it that much. First of all, it was a very short read. I finished reading it in one afternoon. Secondly, I found the book to be lacking information, because letters are presented here and there, but most of the time we don't get to read a "two-way" conversation, so it is hard to follow. Also, I expected to read letters to and from many children, and was a bit disappointed when I realised only a few children's letters were featured.
Still, I love C.S. Lewis, and was very happy to read his Letters to Children, and feel as if some had been written for me.
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