This C.S. Lewis biography, accessible to 5-year-olds, includes fascinating details for Narnia fans of all ages
*Through the Wardrobe: How C. S. Lewis Created Narnia by Lina Maslo. Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins), 2020, 40 pages.
Reading Level: Picture Book, ages 4-8
Recommended for: ages 5-10
The second son born to Albert and Florence Lewis decided at the age of 4 that he would be called “Jack,” not Clive Staples. Besides strong opinions, he had a lively imagination and loved making up imaginary worlds with his older brother. In his pleasantly cluttered Belfast home, one piece of furniture that loomed large was the double-doored wardrobe that had been carved by the boys’ grandfather.
Many of us are pretty familiar with the life of C. S. Lewis and some of the early inspirations for the Narnia books. While telling the story at a grade-school level, this picture-book biography manages to include lots of detail, both in illustration and text. The first page, for example, features the miniature garden Jack’s brother Warnie built in a biscuit tin lid, later described in Surprised by Joy as the awaking of Jack’s spiritual imagination. Another page pictures Squirrel Nutkin floating down a stream in his little raft—another “joy-filled” childhood memory. His miserable school days, brief army career, and early days at Oxford precede his conversion, all these stages of life passed over quickly. In his middle years Lewis returned to the imaginative life of his boyhood, and the wardrobe reappeared.
Young readers who love the Narnia stories find this book fascinating. Older readers will appreciate its comprehensiveness, and may even learn a thing or two. (I didn’t know, for example, that J.R.R. Tolkien was so negative about the Narnia stories that Lewis packed the manuscript away for a few years. A one-page biography and more interesting facts about the Narnia series make up the appendix. (Do you know where the name “Narnia” came from? Or where you can go to see the actual wardrobe?) This is a book that many Lewis fans will want to own.
Overall rating: 5 (out of 5)
- Worldview/moral value: 4.5
- Artistic/literary value: 5
Also at Redeemed Reader:
- A similar biography was published earlier this year: Finding Narnia by Caroline MacAlister. John Ronald’s Dragons, by the same author, explores the childhood of J.R.R. Tolkien.
- See our interview with Gina Dalfonzo on her latest book, Dorothy and Jack, about the friendship between Lewis and Dorothy Sayers.
- Don’t miss Hayley’s reflection on the Narnia series, on the 70th anniversary of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
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