Chronicles of Narnia Series

The Chronicles of Narnia

Author(s): 
C.S. Lewis
Series: 
Chronicles of Narnia
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This set of seven books has been a children's classic for decades (and will soon be released as major motion pictures). The action is focused on a small group of children from our own world (Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve) who are drawn into the activities of a whole separate world - Narnia. The activity extends from our own world, to Narnia, it's neighboring countries, and even other worlds still. Though it is not strictly a parallel to our own world the author ends up showing us a creation-to-apocalypse view of this other world - and in so doing reveals much about the themes that are seen in our own. By seeing another creation (which is not JUST like our own) we are taken out our own mindset and can understand the motives and the majesty of what it must have been like. Most things in Narnia are just enough different to make us think - but still so full of human nature (ironically even in the talking animals of that world) that it is a fascinating exercise for your mind. Discussions of the events and motivations with your children are like a multitude of grapes ripe on the vine - pick ones here and there - you will never finish them all; even in a dozen readings (like honor, duty, charity, worship etc.). The characters are well developed but not hard to understand. In fact, sometimes the fact that a character is such and such an animal is itself revealing! This is a good fantasy story. And it is interesting enough for you and your children to read, discuss and enjoy together.

Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: 

The Magician's Nephew

Book cover: 'The Magician's Nephew'
Author(s): 
C.S. Lewis
Copyright: 
1955
Publisher: 
HarperTrophy
Series: 
Chronicles of Narnia
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
202 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

The Magician's Nephew, although chronologically first in the series, should probably be read after The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.. (Even as children should probably be introduced to the story of Christ and his life before going back to the important stories of the Old Testament).

At first glance, this is a story of magic, drama and journeying to other worlds. Digory and his friend Polly, who live in London in the early part of the 20th century, accidentally discover some weird experiments being performed by Digory's Uncle. Too cowardly to test out his own experiments, he sends them off unwillingly to an adventure in an unknown world.

They find themselves in an enchanted place - a "wood between the worlds" - a quiet, peaceful place filled with trees and pools of water. They soon discover that each pool will take them into a different "world." When they decide to explore one of these worlds, their real adventure begins - and they're in for a wild ride.

The story is, primarily, about the founding of a new world - Narnia. The two children witness its creation and its initial struggles with evil - not unlike those of our own world. Naturally, it presents some of the history that leads up to the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as well.

Like the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, children need not be fully aware of the story's allegorical significance in order to enjoy and benefit from the story. On a simpler level, the story highlights truths about character and consequences that will remain with them for a lifetime.

Review Date: 
4-21-01
Reviewed by: 

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Book cover: 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe'
Author(s): 
C.S. Lewis
Copyright: 
1950
Publisher: 
HarperTrophy
Series: 
Chronicles of Narnia
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
189 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This most famous, and probably most beloved of the Narnian tales was the first one written, and probably the best place to start. I have heard that the author wished for children to read this book first and then go back to The Magician's Nephew afterward.

Four British children - Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, are taken to the country to live with an old Professor during World War II, as London was quite unsafe for children. The professor is somewhat eccentric, but kind, and permits them to explore his large estate. While hiding in an old wardrobe, the youngest, Lucy, is amazed to discover that there is no back to the wardrobe - as she pushes past more and more coats, they become scratchier and colder and she begins to realize that she's no longer in a wardrobe. She's in the middle of a snowy forest. Lucy has discovered a strange, unknown world where amazing adventures await her and her siblings.

Long beloved by children the world over, this is a tale of innocence, difficult lessons learned, adventure, friendship and love. Underneath and not immediately apparent to children is an allegory. Some truths about our own world can be seen more clearly through a story that takes place elsewhere.

Narnia is in the grip of the White Witch. Although she promises happiness and delightful things, those who follow her are miserable, and the entire land is immersed in an eternal winter - always winter and without Christmas. The mysterious Aslan, a lion who is greatly feared by the witch, comes to Narnia and things begin to change.

Most parents will quickly realize that Aslan is a figure for Christ who saved the world from the tyranny of sin and death (represented by the witch). There are many interesting details that correspond with this allegory. Although I read the series many times as a child, I wasn't fully aware of the allegorical significance until much later. I wouldn't spoil it for children by sitting down and explaining it to them. The Christian allegory will probably be more meaningful if they are permitted to discover it for themselves.

The story (as well as others in the series) is appropriate as a read-aloud even for rather young children and is written at a mid-grade-school reading level. (Strong readers may be interested in tackling it even earlier.) The book is most powerful, I think, when it can be first introduced in the very simple way that young children enjoy such a book.

Review Date: 
4-21-01
Reviewed by: 

The Horse and His Boy

Book cover: 'The Horse and His Boy'
Author(s): 
C.S. Lewis
Copyright: 
1954
Publisher: 
HarperTrophy
Series: 
Chronicles of Narnia
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
224 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

The Horse and His Boy takes place in a neighboring country, but in the same "world" as Narnia, and during the later parts of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. A runaway slave, Shasta, and a runaway princess, Aravis, team up with two talking horses to escape from their own land of Calormen into the free land of Narnia. The story is rich in its portrayal of other cultures in this "other world" with an interesting focus on the interaction between the two children. Here is a small sample:

Both the children unsaddled their horses and the horses had a little grass and Aravis produced rather nice things to eat from her saddle-bag. But Shasta sulked and said No thanks, and that he wasn't hungry. And he tried to put on what he thought very grand and stiff manners, but as a fisherman's hut is not usually a good place for learning grand manners, the result was dreadful. And he half knew that it wasn't a success and then became sulkier and more awkward than ever. Meanwhile the two horses were getting on splendidly. They remembered the very same places in Narnia - "the grasslands up above Beaversdam" and found that they were some sort of second cousins once removed. This made things more and more uncomfortable for the humans until at last Bree said, "And now, Tarkheena, tell us your story. And don't hurry it - I'm feeling comfortable now."

Aravis immediately began, sitting quite still and using a rather different tone and style from her usual one. For in Calormen, story-telling (whether the stories are true or made up) is a thing you're taught, just as English boys and girls are taught essay writing. The differences is that people want to hear the stories, whereas I never heard of anyone who wanted to read the essays. (pgs 34-35)

It is reminiscent of classic stories set in the Middle East (such as the Arabian Nights) and might be best enjoyed by mid-to-upper grade school children.

Reviewed by: 

Prince Caspian

Book cover: 'Prince Caspian'
Author(s): 
C.S. Lewis
Copyright: 
1951
Publisher: 
HarperTrophy
Series: 
Chronicles of Narnia
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
223 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

The four children return to Narnia, but don't even recognize it at first because it has changed so much. They slowly discover that time is different in Narnia from their own world and that hundreds of years have past. Narnia is now ruled by a wicked man who has no right to the throne. Their adventures involve meeting the rightful heir and raising up "Old Narnia" behind him.

The author puts you right in middle of a thrilling adventure; made more mysterious because children now are looking upon their previous adventures as "ancient history". For my oldest daughter, reading this in early grade school kindled an interest in history and a reverence for "old things" that has remained quite strong years later.

Review Date: 
5-25-05
Reviewed by: 

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Book cover: 'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader'
Author(s): 
C.S. Lewis
Copyright: 
1952
Publisher: 
HarperTrophy
Series: 
Chronicles of Narnia
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
248 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

The two youngest of the four children - Edmund and Lucy - are staying with a nasty young relative, Eustace Scrubb over the holidays. The three of them are drawn into Narnia together through a painting of a ship at sea and find themselves on a real ship in Narnia with their old friend Caspian from the previous story. He is in the midst of a great sea voyage through many lands beyond Narnia, searching for great men of Narnia the previous king had sent into exile.

The book is strongly reminiscent of the great Greek epic, Homer's Odyssey while Christian themes abound, such as: repentance, our need for supernatural help in fighting our vices, the horrors of slavery, the dangers of magic, etc.

Here is a small sampling (the first few paragraphs of the book):

There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. His parents called him Eustace Clarence and masters called him Scrubb. I can't tell you how his friends spoke to him, for he had none. He didn't call his Father and Mother "Father" and "Mother," but Harold and Alberta. They were very up-to-date and advanced people. They were vegetarians, non-smokers and teetotalers and wore a special kind of underclothes. In their house there was very little furniture and very few clothes on beds and the windows were always open.

Eustace Clarence liked animals, especially bettles, if they were dead and pinned on a card. He liked books if they were books of information and had pictures of grain elevators or of fat foreign children doing exercises in model schools.

Eustace Clarence disliked his cousins the four Pevensies, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. But he was quite glad when he heard that Edmund and Lucy were coming to stay. For deep down inside him he liked bossing and bullying; and, though he was a puny little person who couldn't have stood up even to Lucy, let alone Edmund, in a fight, he knew that there are dozens of ways to give people a bad time if you are in your own home and they are only visitors.

Review Date: 
5-26-05
Reviewed by: 

The Silver Chair

Book cover: 'The Silver Chair'
Author(s): 
C.S. Lewis
Copyright: 
1953
Publisher: 
HarperTrophy
Series: 
Chronicles of Narnia
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
256 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

Eustace Scrubb and a new character, Jill, return to Narnia to save a young prince from his evil captors. Early in the story is a small piece that almost haunts me (in a good way - like something that has become imbedded in my conscience), even as an adult. Because Eustace fails to greet an "old friend" much good that could have happened, is lost, and much work must be done before achieving his mission. The truths that underlie these sorts of details in this entire series are really wonderful.

Back to the plot... the young prince is being held captive, by flattery and brainwashing in an underground kingdom, out of the light of the sun. As with other books in this series, there is a fascinating meld of themes from classical literature and Christian virtues and ideas. This one in particular is reminiscent of Plato's "Cave Analogy". The allegory and adventure are both very strong as the two children and some interesting Narnia natives help to overthrow this evil kingdom.

Review Date: 
5-26-05
Reviewed by: 

The Last Battle

Book cover: 'The Last Battle'
Author(s): 
C.S. Lewis
Copyright: 
1956
Publisher: 
HarperTrophy
Series: 
Chronicles of Narnia
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
211 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This final book really presents a grand finale as the signs of Narnia's own "end times" begin to appear and the good side makes its preparations for a last stand against all the corruption and evil around. Even as a child, I remember enjoying how the author wove in so many "historical" details from the past books. Salvation and the reality of what life is really about are just over the horizon.

Clearly the series, in addition to being an entertaining story to read (and probably a lot of fun for the author to put together) are a way of looking at many of the big issues in the history of our own world in miniature, and in a way that children can grasp. On a much simpler level, the stories help children in forming their ideas of right and wrong, the meaning of character and in wanting the good people to choose good and the bad people to be punished. This series comes very highly recommended by both Catholic and Protestant educators, clergy, parents and theologians.

Review Date: 
4-21-01
Reviewed by: 

Focus On The Family Radio Theater - The Chronicles of Narnia

Book cover: 'Focus On The Family Radio Theater - The Chronicles of Narnia'
Author(s): 
C.S. Lewis
Series: 
Chronicles of Narnia
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

Focus on the Family has produced an audio version of all of the Narnia books ( Available on CD or audio cassette). The stories are elegantly introduced by Douglas Grisham, stepson of C.S. Lewis. Mr. Grisham draws listeners into the story by recounting his personal experiences with C.S. Lewis ("or 'Jack' as he liked to be called"). Thus far, three books have been reproduced- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Magician's Nephew, and The Horse and His Boy.

Each story, although abridged, is masterfully told. The characters are well-formed and the sound effects are terrific. Having read all of the Narnia series aloud, and loved them, our family had very high expectations. The audio version of these classics fully lived up to our expectations.

Each book is approximately two hours [or more] of listening time. The audio versions of the Narnia books are an excellent purchase!

Review Date: 
7-25-2000

Pages