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Through the Wardrobe: How C. S. Lewis Created Narnia Hardcover – Picture Book, May 19, 2020
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“As befitting the creator of the beloved Narnia books, this illustrated biography maintains the sense of a story unfolding, leading up to the moments when the iconic stories came to be….This engaging and affectionate re-creation of Lewis' life highlights resilience, creativity, and inspiration.” -- Kirkus Reviews
"The bold, richly detailed illustrations, crafted with vibrant inks and acrylics, feature numerous gems Narnia fans will enjoy discovering. A finely illustrated biography equally suited to research or pleasure reading.” -- School Library Journal
“Children who adore ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ will find references to all seven books in Ms. Maslo's simple and affectionate illustrations.” -- Wall Street Journal
About the Author
- Publisher : Balzer + Bray; Illustrated edition (May 19, 2020)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 48 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0062798561
- ISBN-13 : 978-0062798565
- Reading age : 4 - 8 years
- Grade level : Preschool - 3
- Item Weight : 13.9 ounces
- Dimensions : 7.8 x 0.4 x 11.7 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #165,158 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
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"As a boy, Clive Staples Lewis did not like his name. He imagined himself as more of a... Jack. When he was four years old, he changed it."
Since Jack didn't always like his own world, he imagined and wrote about other worlds. That was a precursor of things to come.
Jack lived in Ireland where it rained a lot. He and his older brother spent hours reading about talking animals and knights in armor. They made up a world populated with frogs, mice, and rabbits who argued about politics and went on quests to defeat evil cats. Conquering evil played a part in Jack's early stories.
Jack's pleasant childhood ended when he was nine. His mother died and he and his brother were sent to a boarding school in England--a horrible experience for him. Jack finished his education with a tutor and was on his way to being a teacher when WWI broke out. Jack went into the army but was determined to be a writer. After the war, he "pushed his imagination away." He taught at Oxford University and wrote many books about "pain, faith, love; about medieval times; about people discovering strange planets."
"But in the back of his mind, Jack had characters waiting for a story of their own."
During WWII, Jack took in evacuees. One day, a little girl asked him if there was anything behind [his] old wardrobe.
That started him thinking. He "decided to write a fairy tale...about a land unlike the dreary one they lived in, and about the characters in his imagination."
Jack's publisher, and his good friend, J.R.R. Tolkien, didn't like his first ideas about Narnia, so he put it aside. But when he got sick, he decided he didn't care what others thought. He would write a story about four children who had been sent far from home during the war. "It was raining, and they were stuck inside a house of endless hallways. They found a wardrobe and crawled in. But as they pushed back the old fur coats, they fell into a magical realm..."
Narnia was a place that children learned about characters who stood up to bullies and that "the worst moments of your life were only leading you to become the person you were meant to be."
Children wrote to him and begged for more stories about Narnia. But by the time he wrote the seventh book, he knew he was finished. "This time, it was up to others--to discover a world only they could imagine and to find the door they were destined to open."
SOME FINAL NOTES
Look closely at the clever cover of the book pictured above and notice what Lina incorporated into it. If you get the book for a young reader--as I hope you will--you'll discover that the hardback cover is a wardrobe. Young readers open the doors of this beautifully written book and step inside C.S. Lewis's life.
Make sure you don't skip over the endpapers. In the front are imagined letters from children to C.S. Lewis. Since he destroyed all of his correspondence, Maslo created these. The back endpapers are actual letters from Jack to children which can be found in C.S. Lewis: Letters to Children. Back matter includes interesting facts about Jack and an extensive bibliography.
A PERSONAL NOTE
I love stories within stories and in fact, this is a picture book about a man who loved reading and writing books. The illustrations are accessible to children; the color pallet which Lina Maslo used is beautiful. Although C.S. Lewis ages in the book, he still has a child-like wonder in his facial expressions.
I bought this book for my not-quite-five-year-old granddaughter since I knew her father had already read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe to her. During the Covid quarantine, my daughter suggested that I read books to her via Skype. I happily obliged. After my granddaughter received Through the Wardrobe she asked if I could read it to her. I was glad I had saved the F and G's so I could read the book to her.
In addition to exploring the origins and the significance of the Narnia series, this book also covers his childhood, his sufferings at boarding school, his wartime experiences, his academic career, his conversion to Christianity, his writings for adults, J.R.R. Tolkien's criticism of Narnia, Lewis's marriage to Joy Davidman, and so much else. This is incredibly thorough, and the author's note shares even more details, including some fun facts that even I didn't know, or else didn't remember.
This book is a complete home run. Everything about it is fantastic. I love the illustrations, the well-written text, the attention to historical accuracy and period detail, and the confident narrative voice, which speaks to children as equals and does not dumb down or eliminate aspects of the story that adults might consider difficult for children. Also, even the end-papers are wonderful! The ones in the front illustrate fan letters that children sent to Lewis, and the end-papers in the back illustrate his responses.
I highly recommend this to children and adults who love Narnia or have a general appreciation for C.S. Lewis. This book is bursting with interesting biographical facts, has a satisfying narrative arc, and engages with what makes Narnia so special. It also interacts with more than just <i>The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,</i> sharing basic, spoiler-free plot details from other books as well. Reepicheep made more than one appearance in this book's illustrations, which was a delight to me, since he is one of my favorite characters.
This is an absolutely wonderful book, and it covers so much of my favorite author's life in just forty-eight pages. I'm amazed with how good this is, and even though I read a library copy, I will definitely pursue this eventually for my personal collection, as well as keeping it in mind as a great gift for fellow Narnia fans. I highly recommend this!