Book Review: “Inside the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” by James Stuart Bell and others

Friday, July 30th, 2010 at 12:55 pm

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Chronicles of Narnia

When Carrie’s Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge rolls around in the month of July, I relish the opportunity to go back to Narnia. I don’t often give myself the luxury of re-reading books, since I’ve got a bazillion books to read in my quest to read every book in my local library. But I make an exception for C.S. Lewis and re-read one title for the challenge. I’d already read all seven of the Narnia books (since September 5 of 2006 when I began the quest), so I assumed that there was no way I could continue to make progress towards my goal while I completed the Narnia reading challenge.

But then Carrie posted a collection of books about Narnia (and a second list). I had an “Ah-hah!” moment and quickly opened my library webpage to see if they had any books about Narnia that I could read. They did.

Since I was just finishing up The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I figured that Inside “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” would be a good title to start with. Inside is a paperback novel sized book intended as a children’s read-along or study guide for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The writing style reminds me somewhat of the popular “For Dummies” series, in that unfamiliar vocabulary is defined and the authors speak directly to the reader. But even though it might be easy-to-understand, this book is definitely NOT for dummies.

Inside “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” is stuffed with information about the allusions found within the iconic Narnia title. The authors take the reader through the book chapter by chapter, explaining the London air raids, Turkish delight, Father Christmas, the background on the many strange creatures found within Narnia and more. While I’m relatively well-read, I learned plenty from this book. For instance, I already knew that the wolf Maugrim’s British name was “Fenris Ulf”, but I didn’t know that he may have been modeled after the mythical Norse wolf “Fenrir”. This book describes literary allusions that I didn’t know existed–but which make perfect sense upon reading them. They’ve got me wanting to read some of the fairy tales and mythology that seem to have inspired Lewis!

Of course, some of the most evident literary and historical allusions found in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe are allusions to the Bible. Bell, Pyykkonen, and Washington address these in the same way as they address the others. They explain the reference to “sons of Adam and daughters of Eve.” They describe the correlations between Aslan and Jesus and between Edmund and Judas. They discuss Cair Paravel as a sort of “Promised Land” or “heaven”. The authors aren’t over the top with their Biblical references (that is, they don’t make it the emphasis at the expense of explaining other references), but they are thorough in their coverage of the Biblical allusions found in Narnia.

Some other fun features of this book (in addition to the information that it’s JAM-PACKED with) are the quizzes and call-outs that can be found at odd intervals throughout. You can take a quiz about the differences between beavers in Narnia and beavers in our world. You can read a quick “profile” of Peter (and numerous other characters) that lists his name, age, nicknames, likes and dislikes, and the gift he received from Father Christmas. There’s a logic puzzle to play and a closing “Oscars” in which you can vote for the best leading “actor” in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Kids interested in discussing Lewis’s book with their friends (or homeschooling mothers interested in assigning writing exercises to go along with their child’s reading) might enjoy the discussion questions found in the back of Inside.

All these features combine to make this a great resources for anyone (late elementary school on up) who is a lover of Narnia. Homeschooling parents (or parents looking for a project to do with their kids for next year’s “Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge”) may want to use this book as a springboard for a unit study for younger students (While the title doesn’t specifically give activity suggestions, it wouldn’t be hard to come up with some of your own–they’re practically jumping off the page in anticipation for you to do them.) All in all, this is a book every lover of Narnia (and lover of children’s literature in general) should pick up.


Rating: 5 Stars
Category: Literature Study-Guide/Read-along
Synopsis: An easy-to-understand yet in-depth look at the literary and historical allusions found in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Recommendation: This book is a definite keeper. Find it, buy it, peruse it, lend it to your older children, and find a way to share the information found within with your younger children. This is a fantastic resource.

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Reader Comments (1):

  1. bekahcubed says:

    On August 06, 2010 – 09:26
    Carrie, Reading to Know wrote:

    This book sounds AWESOME! I love the background information you’ve provided here. Apparently it’s a must that I run out and buy this one to add to the collection. I’d love to read it. Glad you participated in the challenge by finding this book – and working on completing your own challenge as well!

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