The Picture Book Buzz

Through The Wardrobe: How C.S. Lewis Created Narnia - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

May 15, 2020

In this time of uncertainty and isolation, books can help provide an escape and an inspiration for creativity. Provide a special family time. And offer a safe place to explore emotions and fears. Books can show us more about ourselves and provide a window into other's motivations. The Chronicles of Narnia, written from 1950 to 1956, provided both C.S. Lewis and his many fans a doorway into a magical place. 

 

I get the distinct privilege to be able to give you all a sneak peek into Lina Maslo's beautiful new book - Through The Wardrobe: How C.S. Lewis Created Narnia - which releases May 19th.

 

As a big fan of C.S. Lewis and The Chronicles of Narnia, I think Lina Maslo has created a beautiful tribute to C.S. "Jack" Lewis and a doorway into his powerful imagination. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Through The Wardrobe: How C.S. Lewis Created Narnia

 

Author/Illustrator: Lina Maslo

 

Publisher: Balzer & Bray (2020)

 

Ages: 4 - 8

 

Nonfiction

 

Themes:

Imagination, resilience, and finding one's path.

 

Synopsis:

As a child, Clive Staples Lewis imagined many things . . .

heroic animals

and knights in armor

and a faraway land called Boxen.

 

He even thought of a new name for himself—at four years old, he decided he was more of a Jack.

As he grew up, though, Jack found that the real world was not as just as the one in his imagination. No magic could heal the sick or stop a war, and a bully’s words could pierce as sharply as a sword. So Jack withdrew into books and eventually became a well-known author for adults.

 

But he never forgot the epic tales of his boyhood, and one day a young girl’s question about an old family wardrobe inspired him to write a children’s story about a world hidden beyond its fur coats . . . a world of fauns and queens and a lion named Aslan. A world of battles between good and evil, where people learned courage and love and forgiveness.

 

A magical realm called Narnia.

 

And the books he would write about this kingdom would change his life and that of children the world over.

 

Opening Lines:

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.

As he grew, Jack didn't always like the world he lived in.

So he would imagine and write about other worlds. 

 

What I LOVED about this book:

The reader is in for a treat from the moment they pick up this book. Even younger children, who may not know the tales of Narnia (yet), will be enthralled by the cover. I love Lina Maslo' s depiction of the sword wielding mouse, Reepicheep, talking to Jack as he writes. As well as the depiction of Aslan, the White Witch, Mr. Tumnus, and Mr. & Mrs. Beaver inhabiting the inside of the wardrobe - and Jack's imagination.

 

It was a stroke of genius to use C.S. Lewis' actual letters to children on the back end pages. Unfortunately, the actual letters from the kids were lost, but Lina created letters on the front end pages that could have elicited these responses.   

© Lina Maslo, 2020.

 

Lina's lyrically narrative biography traces the events and people who created the roots for Jack's wonderful imagination and his creation of Narnia. As children, Jack and his brother Warnie entertained themselves while stuck inside during drizzly Irish days or biking around the countryside - reading, dreaming, and creating stories.

 

 

 

But the loss of his mother brought Jack's "wonder-filled world" to an end. Subsequent bullying in school and the horrors of World War I also wore on his spirit and honed his imagination as he wrote stories and poetry as a way to cope, to survive.

 

 

© Lina Maslo, 2020.

 

 

Using the motif of a doorway opening onto a magical world, Lina shows how Jack opens both a fictional and personal "door." This gorgeously illustrated, touching biography culminates in C.S. Lewis' creation of a special world "where one learns things like courage and love and forgiveness." Where you can sail through "nightmares and darkness and dragony thoughts." A special place where one can defeat bullies and magical apples can heal. Interestingly, completing the stories and closing the door on the Chronicles of Narnia, opened a door in Jack's personal life. 

 

Tucked throughout the vivid ink and acrylic illustrations are a myriad of treasures for Narnia fans, such as the red scarf and umbrella, the Narnia themed rug, the lamppost, and the four faces carved into the wardrobe. As well as a final magical door that the reader is invited to open. The end notes provide more information on Jack, many other interesting facts, and a bibliography. This is an excellent book for Narnia fans, those who enjoy biographies, and anyone looking for an uplifting story about the power of imagination and creativity.   

 

Resources:

- draw your own wardrobe (or open door) or write a story about going through a door. What do you imagine is on the other side?

- C.S. Lewis' mouse, Reepicheep, shows up on many of the pages. Draw a picture or write a story about the animal you would take on an adventure?

- read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, alone or as a family. Then write your own letter to C.S. Lewis. 

- watch the trailer for the book: https://youtu.be/PvUkg42TrJs.

 

If you missed the interview of Lina Maslo on Monday, find it (here).

 

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

 

 

 

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