In honor of the upcoming movie release of C.S. Lewis' classic, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I sat down with my youngest girls, E and S, last night to read them the book that inspired it all.
"Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. This story is about something that happened to them when they were sent away from London during the war because of the air-raids."
So begins C.S. Lewis' fantastical tale. Not the most memorable opening in a children's book. Yet, the silence that descended on the girls as I read chapter one was undeniable. Even the ticking of the Winnie-the-Pooh clock on S's nightstand seemed intrusive.
What hooked my girls so early on? I couldn't depend on them to articulate the reasons. An "I liked it, that's why" was the best I could expect, given their ages. And besides, the lights were out, and it was way past bedtime.
My guess is that they empathized with Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy because they were living away from home when something "happened to them." I suspect my girls were drawn to the reassuring, story-telling point of view of the omniscient narrator. And I wonder if they heard the promise of intrigue and adventure woven so seamlessly into the opening pages of the story.
By the end of page one, for example, we learn Lucy was "a little afraid" of the old Professor, despite her siblings' willingness to accept him. By the top of page three, we read that from Lucy's point of view the Professor's house is filled with "long passages and rows of doors leading into empty rooms" that leave her feeling "a bit creepy."
And then there's the wonderful tension Lewis builds. There's no denying the skillful way he contrasts Lucy's unease with her sister's and brothers' welcoming attitudes. "This is going to be perfectly splendid," Peter says of their new home."I think he's an old dear," Susan says of their host.
Lewis' novel is a first read for me. Like my girls, I was hooked before the end of page one. (So much so that I plan to steal into the girl's room tonight after they've gone to sleep so I can secretly read ahead. And analyze more about what's working and why.)
Note to self:
Remember to read aloud more often, especially those authors I admire most.