Originally from Speaking Well In Public’s Page on Facebook.
Continuing my recommended reads from a century of children’s literature.
From The Magician’s Nephew to The Last Battle, the Chronicles of Narnia tells the story of another world from its dawn to its end. In the first written and best known, The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, four brothers and sisters find themselves drawn into Narnia and help in its heroic struggle to free itself. The whole series can be read in a sequence or individually and is well worth exploring, drawing on ancient Greek mythology, religious allegory, mediaeval history and old tales of adventures sailing the seven seas. It features many magical creatures; talking animals, fauns, nymphs and minotaurs, and some much scarier ones, too.
The writer often credited with getting boys reading again. Her Harry Potter series creates a whole other magical world, mixing the classic British boarding school stories loved for generations, with a huge tale of good versus evil. The third, The Prisoner of Azkaban, with its theme of friendships and betrayals, is I think the best.
Her far from perfect or virtuous Edwardian children argue, explore and fall into adventure, sometimes in stories firmly set in the real world, with The Story of the Treasure Seekers or The Railway Children, and sometimes encounters with astounding mythological creatures which take them flying and exploring other worlds in Five Children and It and The Phoenix and the Carpet.
A group of teenagers discover a derelict hall and work together to create their own theatre in The Swish of the Curtain, a book which has inspired generations of young actors to follow in their footsteps. As they grow up through the later books they go on to drama school and discover the life of training and working in the worlds of theatre and film.
Ballet Shoes introduces the Fossil family of adopted sisters who become a film star, a ballerina, and a WW2 pilot. That first book sees them as children, learning to dance and act in 1920s London. Later books tell the stories of different characters working to succeed at ballet, theatre and music, through the war and on right into the 1970s. The Painted Garden is the adventure of a young English girl in California just after the war, caught up in the whirl of starring in a Hollywood film of The Secret Garden, and the Fossils, grown up now, do occasionally appear.
Even though the books have been created over many years, all feature themes of family, loyalty and friendship that any child will recognise. Any child who reads these – and any family that reads them together – will have a very good start in life, and a bookshelf to keep for ever. PH