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The Joy of Reading: The Lion, the Witch and the Bathrobe

For as long as I can remember, it’s been common for people to observe that Stella is “Daddy’s little girl.” They don’t mean that he spoils her, but rather that she just loves to do whatever he is doing. And as a result, they have now cultivated a mutual passion for the outdoors that is really beautiful.

But something else that is beautiful has taken place recently. When it comes to reading, Stella is now “Mommy’s little girl.” Just as the outdoors brings a sense of inspiration and peace to my husband, this has always been what reading has provided to me. So I am just thrilled that her life now includes the joy of reading.

I’ve kept two series of chapter books from my childhood: The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis and the Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Both were boxed sets, which made them extra-special gifts at the time. I have no functional use for keeping them all these years; they sit as purely sentimental mementos in my book shelf.

In the meantime of course, I’ve had a daughter. A daughter who now knows how to read. But her tastes have led to tear through Pokemon, Gerinomo Stilton and Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. My cherished box sets from youth must seem old-fashioned, with their faded covers and black and white interiors, and so they continue to sit quietly in my shelf.

But the other day, she began to tell me about a book called Narnia that she saw at her school library. “There was a lion, a witch, and a bathrobe,” she told me straight-faced. But not even “the bathrobe” could distract me from my opportunity to regale her with the book’s merits. I explained that the last word in the title was “wardrobe” and that it was a cupboard where people kept their clothes when they didn’t have a closet in their bedroom.

And then I pounced: “You know, all sorts of magical things happen in that series of books. I just loved it when I was your age. I think I may even have those books still. Hmmmm….. let me look …”

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This is the book that Stella found at her school library called Narnia. It was published to tie-in with the film that appeared in theatres in 2005. I have not read it myself, or even seen it with my own eyes, but apparently the visuals are very appealing to children and the language and plot have been modified for the same reason. (It’s received excellent reader reviews on the Chapters-Indigo Canada website and retails for $8.99.)

The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe Movie Tie-in Edition (rack)

If you’re not familiar with series, it all starts off with Lucy and her siblings Peter, Susan and Edmund. They are sent to live in the house of an old Professor in the London country to keep them safe during the war. In this large house, Lucy finds that when she hides in a wardrobe, the back of it is actually an entrance to an enchanted land called Narnia. The first book in the series The Chronicles of Narnia is the most famous and it is titled The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In it, Aslan, the noble lion, frees Narnia from the spell of the White Witch.

I just adore the forward that the author, C.S. Lewis, wrote for his much-loved book, which was first published in 1950. It is inscribed to Lucy Barfield, his Goddaughter.

My dear Lucy,
I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say, but it shall still be.
Your affectionate Godfather,
C.S. Lewis 

This is what my boxed set looks like, published by Collier Books in second edition in 1978.  Each book has a price of $1.95 in the top right-hand corner. The only pictures inside each book are small black and white illustrations at the start of each chapter.

And you can still buy a beautiful boxed set too! Chapters-Indigo Canada offers a Harpers Collins Canada set with full-color illustrations by Pauline Baynes with original cover art from the Puffin editions, which were published only in the UK in the 1950s ($54.77), while my readers in the U.S. might prefer to order from The Scholastic Store, which sells  similarly lovely set of the seven tales ($40 US). Of note is that no matter where you live, the Scholastic website for parents offers a great discussion guide for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe that you can use to chat about the book with your child as well as a Parent’s Guide to the Fantasy Book Genre.

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I pulled out my box set for Stella. This is the Chronicles of Narnia, I explained in a hushed tone probably more commonly used for emphasis on made-for-tv movies. These are the original books that the author wrote, and that Mommy loved, I continued.

Her interest was piqued. She took the first book and tentatively flipped through the pages. Then she wandered off.

Later, as I walked up the stairs, I could see her laying in bed, nose-deep into the novel. It was past her bedtime, the teeth hadn’t been brushed, and no bedtime rituals had been complete. I quietly tip-toed back down the stairs.

She’d found it! That sweet spot. For as any bookroom knows, the big “o” of reading is when you start into a book and within pages you literally cannot put it down. It is always on your mind … you’re just dying to continue onwards through the pages and find out what happens. You’ll deny yourself food, sleep — whatever it takes — to just keep reading. Until one experiences that sensation, one has not experienced the true joy of reading.

Later. Much later. I went upstairs to turn out her light and tuck her in. She’d fallen asleep with the book beside her. And I could see there was only a sliver of pages left to be read. I leaned over and whispered, “Just like Momma,” and gave her a kiss goodnight.

I was inspired to write this post because I just found out over the weekend that this blog has been chosen by the editors of Scholastic Parent and Child magazine as a finalist for their 2010 Parent Blogger Awards.

Needless to say, I’m thrilled! If you would like to vote for my blog, just click here. Voting starts today! (It’s painless, I promise!)

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Comments

  1. Nice! The Boy is really into the Percy Jackson’s Olympian series. The first is called the Lightning Thief. Great fun. Very today.

    Narnia not so much his thing. (He liked the movie though.)

  2. L,W & W is my favorite children’s book of all time… at least before Harry Potter came along! i loved reading it with my son. Next, we will read Anne of Green Gables. i have my old box set of that one too!

  3. I read “The Hobbit” and loved it and am going to start the other LOTR books soon. Maybe you could read those to her as well?

    Also-“Choose your own Adventure” books were big when I was younger. Do kids still read those?

  4. Nat – Thanks for the tip on the Olympian series. I haven’t heard of those … I’ll check them out! I hear the Narnia movie is pretty intense — she may not be ready for it yet. Too scary.

    Sarah – Awww… You still have your box set too! That’s awesome! :)

    Pauline – Oh, I LOVED the Choose Your Own Adventure books too. I bought her one, but she didn’t go for it. But definitely must start her on LOTR soon.

  5. Count me in as someone with box sets for Anne of Green Gables and LOTR that were passed on to my daughter. Come to think of it, my husband came with a LOTR box set as well :)

    Here’s a scary (but oddly comforting) thought, the next time they come into heavy use will probably be for our grandchildren!

    Congratulations on becoming a finalist for the 2010 Parent Blogger Awards. You’ve got my vote.

  6. Congratulations on your award nomination, Julie! Off to vote in a moment.

    You and I not only share taste in books, but I had the exact same edition of the Chronicles of Narnia, also lovingly preserved for my children. My older son is only 2 1/2, but I can’t wait to share with him the chapter books I’ve saved for him. (He’s already got his mitts all over the picture books!)

  7. My 8yo is loving The Boxcar Children series. They are quite an old series, but somehow I missed them when I was growing up. My daughter is devouring them now, and there are over a hundred of them! I haven’t actually read them myself though, so I can’t vouch for the content personally.

  8. Tatiana & Kristen – more box set keepers!!! Wow – I loev it! We are all from the same cloth, aren’t we? :)

    Finola – more than a hundred in the series??? yikes! Now, that I need to look into … will keep her busy for a long, long time me thinks!

  9. i loved the chronicles of narnia!! you actually may have introduced them to me … so glad that stella has found them too, there is just so much imagination in c.s. lewis’ writing.

  10. I was also totally into that series as a kid. Loved every word. I didn’t have the box set but I eventually collected each title individually…I should track them down in my mom’s basement, my son is probably a year or two away from them.

    As a kid I was also totally obsessed with Alexander Key, who wrote Escape to Witch Mountain among other (better) titles. Your daughter might enjoy them next.

  11. I have both sets from my childhood too! LOVED them and will pass them on to my girls in a few years. Congratulations about the nomination…I hope you win. :)

  12. My mother kept many of our things, both books and toys, and my son recently did his grade 3 book report on my old and worn copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I have given up thinking that the boys will enjoy my Anne of Green Gables set like I did – luckily I have some favorite neighbourhood girls that I can pass them on to! Sometimes I have to “adopt”.

    I’m new to your blog and am thoroughly enjoying it. Good luck with the nomination!

  13. Congrats – I just voted for you! :) And great post, by the way. One of my favourite things to do is read to my children. My 4 year old is a complete daddy’s boy, but when it comes to reading, it’s my time with him – I love it!

  14. Great post! Hooray for Narnia!

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  18. Hello, I check your new stuff like every week. Your writing style is witty, keep up
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