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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Weekly Geeks #3: Favorite Childhood Book

Weekly Geeks asks us this week to reflect on favorite childhood reads.

You could approach this several ways. I’ll probably list my favorite childhood books with maybe a paragraph about each book: why I loved it, how old I was when I read it, where I got the book, etc. You could also just pick one childhood favorite and review it as you would any other book. Or, if you’re fast, you could make up a meme other weekly geeks might like to use. It’ll be interesting to see how everyone personalizes this theme. Don’t forget to come back and leave a link to the post in your comment once you’ve written your post. No wrap-up post this week; just the one childhood books post.

I was quite a bookworm as a youngster. I won't start listing books right now because

A. I have a terrible memory and
B. Too much thought involved

So I'm going to mention just one favorite childhood series. I read and reread The Chronicles of Narnia more times than I can even remember. I've noticed other bloggers reading or rereading this series right now, I've been comparing my memories of the books to their reviews (Becky has some posts here and here , Chris has a post here, and Dolce Bellezza has a post here) With the second movie coming out, I'm going to reflect on the first time I stepped through the wardrobe.

I don't remember the very first time I picked up the books, but I do remember that every time I reread them, I would sit and read one book, then find myself compelled to read all of them, greedily taking them all in. I tried reading them in both the 'chronological' order starting with The Magician's Nephew, where Narnia is created, and ending with The Last Battle, where Narnia is essentially destroyed and rebuilt. I also tried reading in the original publication order, where The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is first, and the creation and destruction of Narnia are read one right after the other. (I tended to prefer the original order. I'm weird about liking to read books in a particular order, in this case the order CS Lewis intended them to be in)

The Pevensie children were like old friends to me. I always thought it must be interesting to grow up and become adults, as the children did in Narnia, only to have the chance to become children again as they do in the first book. As they return to Narnia again and again, it seems that Narnia is more of a home to them than England ever was.

I think what draws people back to these books is the fact that yes, they are sort of allegorical, and yes they may introduce children to complicated theological subjects, but even better, they are just good adventure books, with engaging characters. The children are not always brave or good, nor do they understand everything perfectly all the time. They forget important things that Aslan tells them to remember, and they get tired and weary after sleeping outside for too long. The wonders and adventures they have are never the same in each book, and we rarely revisit the same area or idea more than once. I think because of the variety of each book, they have stayed fresh for as long as they have.

For me, there are certain scenes in the series that have simply stuck with me over time. Even after many rereadings, the scene where Aslan sacrifices himself for Edmund has the power to bring me to tears. Even though I know how the whole book is going to end. When I lost a good friend, this passage brought a lot of comfort to me, because when I read it, I knew that Susan and Lucy were feeling the same grief over Aslan that I was feeling over my friend.

And Aslan: no he's not tame, but he is good. In many ways, he is a minor character in the series because he tends to only show up to wrap things up after the children have pretty much resolved everything. Because of that, he retains a mysteriousness. What is it he does when his whereabouts are unknown? The Narnians often seem to forget about Aslan, or at least think he has forgotten them. Their unbelief comes to a head in the last book when an ape and a donkey try to impersonate Aslan, and for a short while, manage to succeed.

All this writing about the Chronicles of Narnia really makes me want to reread the books now so that I can write a better post. I've forgotten so many things since my last reading of the series that it isn't funny.


Natasha @ Maw Books said...

Okay, I'm going to admit something very embarrassing. I have never read this series. I hope to remedy that soon.

Chayenne said...

A secret shame: I've never read The Chronicles of Narnia. (Natasha, you're not alone.) I've seen the first movie and plan to see the sequel soon; I thought the first movie was good, but I don't know how it compares to the book, obviously. :-/

Kim L said...

natasha-they are totally worth the read! And they are not work at all to read.

chayenne-the movies will never be as good as the books of course, because they kind of water down the essence of the Narnia books. But I did like them pretty well. But these are definitely good books to read!