It’s kind of strange to see which books in a series made it onto the Top 100 Chapter Books list. Two books from The Chronicles of Narnia did — the first and the fifth, The Horse and His Boy (1954). This is the only one of the series books that is just about characters from Narnia and surrounding countries, with only brief appearances from the Pevensies.
What it’s about: A boy who was raised by a fisherman is about to be sold to a man as a servant. When the man and the fisherman go to sleep, Shasta (the boy) finds out that the man’s horse is actually a Horse, a talking beast of Narnia. The two decide to escape and travel together to Narnia and hopefully find Shasta’s original home as well.
Age level: Grades 4-5
Best part: How Shasta expected the worst of people based on where he was raised but then found that it wasn’t like that everywhere. I think it’s a great lesson both ways — that there are bad people in the world but also good ones and so to be wary but also not to necessarily expect the worst.
Worst part: The heavy-handed religious allegories. “There is no fate, only Aslan” was a bit much for me, especially when Aslan conversely had no problem dishing out Old Testament-type punishments.
It turns out that a talking Horse is way less interesting than almost any other talking animal. I was bored during the start of the book, drawn in for a bit, and then totally turned off by the religious part and the tidy ending. There were good parts of the story but I would have rather seen them in a different story.
I’ll be taking the rest of the year off and then will be back in January with the last five books of the project! Betsy-Tacy is likely to be one of the titles that made it onto the list because of nostalgia but I’m hoping it’s good anyway.