Published by Roaring Brook Press on November 19, 2019
Genres: Children's, Non-Fiction, Biography
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Finding Narnia is Caroline McAlister and Jessica Lanan's captivating picture book biography of two brothers, Jack and Warnie Lewis, whose rich imaginations led to the creation of the magical world of Narnia.
Before C.S. Lewis wrote The Chronicles of Narnia, he was a young boy named Jack who spent his days dreaming up stories of other worlds filled with knights, castles, and talking animals. His brother, Warnie, spent his days imagining worlds filled with trains, boats, and technology. One rainy day, they found a wardrobe in a little room next to the attic, and they wondered, What if the wardrobe had no end?
Years later, Jack began to think about what could be beyond that wardrobe, and about a girl named Lucy and her siblings. This picture book biography introduces the beloved creator of The Chronicles of Narnia to a new generation of children who see hidden magic in the world around them.
This delightful picture book biography follows the stories of C.S. Lewis and his brother Warnie, showing how their lifelong bond helped inspire the Narnia series. The author does not mention Lewis’s Christian conversion in the picture book, which may disappoint some families, but a double-page spread shows Lewis in church, and the author’s note mentions his conversion directly, along with other details that did not fit into the picture book narrative. The text is simple but accurate, and the notes in the back add to the reading experience.
The illustrations are colorful and appealing, and even though the characters’ facial expressions are sometimes oversimplified, Lewis is highly recognizable. The pictures are also historically accurate, and the illustrator’s notes in the back explain the real-life inspiration for each page. Even though some pages required creative license, most are based on the illustrator’s research and personal trips to significant locations from Lewis’s life. For example, she visited Lewis’s church to illustrate it, and when she drew a picture of the boys surrounded by books, she included some of Lewis’s childhood favorites, such as Gulliver’s Travels and a Beatrix Potter story. After I read the illustrator’s notes, I enjoyed flipping back through the book to catch these details.
This book brings out many of the most important facts about C.S. Lewis’s life and imagination in just thirty-five pages, and because it focuses on the brothers’ relationship and features engaging illustrations, it stands out as unique among other biographies. It should appeal to Narnia fans of all ages, especially those who enjoy imagining with their own siblings. Overall, this book portrays Lewis’s story with engaging, historically accurate text and pictures, and its ending hints to the excitement of the Narnia books without giving away details for children who have not yet read the series.