The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) by C.S. Lewis is number five on the Top 100 Chapter Books list.
What it’s about: Simply, four siblings–Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy–find a fantasy land through the back panel of a wardrobe.
Age level: Grades 4-6
Best part: The wardrobe, of course. Why else would parents build secret playrooms, accessible only through a large cabinet?
Worst part: Sexism and violence. Here’s one example — To Susan and Lucy, spoken by Father Christmas:
“You must use the bow only in great need,” he said, “for I do not mean you to fight in the battle.” …
“And the dagger is to defend yourself at great need. For you also are not to be in the battle.”
“Why, sir?” said Lucy. “I think–I don’t know–but I think I could be brave enough.”
“That is not the point,” he said. “But battles are ugly when women fight.”
I have to admit that this time through I really noticed the sexism and the promotion of children committing violence. The fact that Aslan makes Peter prove himself by killing and then berates him for being emotional afterward instead of cool and detached and immediately wiping his sword like a trained killer made me feel sick.
I also found myself getting annoyed at Lewis’ patronizing tone. His writing is simple and cold and, frankly, unfriendly. It seemed like I was having a story told at me instead of to me. I think this was highlighted even more because I had to read this right in the middle of my Diana Wynne Jones month. (Unrelated tidbit: She went to Oxford and had Lewis as one of her lecturers.) Her writing is so magical and full and alive while his felt stale and sparse. I’m actually quite disappointed with this reread. Have you reread any of the Narnia books as an adult? Do some work better than others?
I’ll admit that I’ve already listened to my next book, Each Little Bird That Sings, and it was wonderful. So, if you have time, grab a copy and join me next month for the discussion. You won’t regret it. It’s a story like no other!