What to Read Next: Have Yourself a Narnian Christmas
Issue #309: featuring C. S. Lewis and Patti Callahan
Happy Friday readers!
This week I’m excited to share my re-discovery of one of my all-time favorite book series: The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. Specifically, our household has spent a lot of time with the first published title in the seven-book series, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. And, since you know my affinity for bookish backstories, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I have a Narnian backstory to share as well.
FYI: I’m taking next week off from newsletters, so you’ll see me again on January 2nd with a fun discussion thread.
Let’s jump right in — and Merry Christmas! May you have a very Narnian holiday!
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
Published: 1950 | Pages: 185 | Genre: Fiction (Fantasy)
I don’t remember exactly when I first read C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, but I’m pretty sure I was in my early twenties. After that first time, which had a profound impact on me, I read the series again every few years until I was about 30. Then, for any number of reasons, I dropped it for ~6 years and recently dove in again with my oldest kiddos.
Though my 8-year-old wasn’t too interested in the premise (which was a surprise, given his interest in fantasy novels), I convinced him to let me read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe out loud. Then we watched the 2005 film. And then my 5-year-old grabbed an illustrated, abridged version from her school library. We’ve had a very Narnian holiday season around here!
You never know how books are going to sit with you when you revisit them after a long time away, so I was thrilled to discover that the story is just as great and perhaps even more impactful than when I first read them over 15 years ago. And experiencing Narnia through the eyes of my kiddos has added an extra layer of unadulterated joy to the whole thing.
If you’re unfamiliar: this story follows four siblings who discover a magical land ruled by the White Witch where “it’s always winter but never Christmas.” That’s about to change, though. The children join Aslan (the great lion) and his army in their attempt to overthrow the forces of evil. Along the way, they discover a lot about themselves and some of the basic truths of life.
Though it’s a simple children’s story made up of cobbled-together myths, fairy tales, and fables from around the world, it carries a powerful message no matter your age. In the end, love and courage will always win. Period.
If you’ve never read it, now is the time. If you have read it before, give it a re-read. I’m excited to dive into the other books in the series and certainly won’t be waiting as long to read it again next time. In the words of Peter, the eldest sibling in the story, “Narnia forever!”
Once Upon A Wardrobe by Patti Callahan
“The way stories change us can’t be explained. It can only be felt.”
Published: 2021 | Pages: 278 | Genre: Fiction (Historical)
In this heartwarming story, historical fiction author Patti Callahan explores the origins of Narnia. Where did the famous story come from? Which experiences in Clive Staples Lewis’s life led to the magic of that place? As with all historical fiction, she gives us a blend of the real and the imagined, which can sometimes help us get to the Truth of a thing much better than facts alone.
Our fictional protagonist is Oxford student Megs Devonshire. She’s brilliant with numbers and equations and someday wants to solve the great mysteries of physics. She leans on things that can be readily explained, except in one case: her younger brother, George, has a heart condition and doesn’t have long to live. George becomes captivated by a brand-new book called The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and begs his older sister to find out where Narnia came from.
Megs soon finds herself in the company of Jack (the name that C. S. most often went by) and his brother Warnie. She’s looking for concrete answers about Narnia’s origins, and they instead offer her stories in return.
Ultimately, Callahan’s narrative is a celebration of storytelling — how it unexplainably moves us and shapes us and doesn’t need to be tied to anything reasonable or rational.
Sure, this book is a little hokey compared to what I generally prefer, but it’s always charming and never overly sentimental. The pages flew by and Callahan’s love for Narnia was obvious from the start. That shared connection between author and reader almost guaranteed that I would enjoy this book. If you’re also a fan of Narnia, Once Upon a Wardrobe is worth reading.
Thanks so much for all your reading and support this year! I so appreciate your time and attention. See ya in 2024!