What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this high-seas journey into the great unknown is a satisfying fantasy that can be appreciated on its own or as part of the seven-book Chronicles of Narnia series. Originally the third book in the series, it's the fifth book in editions that are ordered along the chronology in the stories. There are perilous moments, including encounters with a sea serpent and a terrifying Island of Dreams, but it all serves the story, and drawn weapons are put away without being used. The Christian theme that runs through the series is very clear here: The adventurers seek the country belonging to Aslan, a Christ-like figure who rules over Narnia in the form of a lion (though he also takes the shape of a lamb here). Aslan tells the children they must learn to know him by another name in their own country. That said, the book can easily be enjoyed as a fantasy without a Christian interpretation.
What's the story?
Edmund and Lucy are visiting their disagreeable cousin Eustace when they find themselves falling into a painting of a great ship: The siblings have returned to the magical country of Narnia, reuniting with Prince Caspian, and Eustace is along for the ride. The children join Caspian and his shipmates on an epic journey into the unknown Eastern Seas. They are seeking seven Narnian lords who had been banished by Caspian’s usurping uncle years ago – and perhaps, even, the land of Aslan, the mystical lion who watches over Narnia. The adventurers encounter enchanted islands, strange merfolk, a fearsome sea serpent, and more, testing their character and their loyalties time and again.
Is it any good?
This fantasy is a classic for good reason. The characters are true and heroic, and their epic adventure sees them escape one danger after another through cleverness, wisdom, sheer bravery, luck, and divine intervention. Even the least appealing characters – the miserable Eustace, later the wearying Dufflepuds – are treated, ultimately, with kindness and affection. C.S. Lewis draws out the good in his characters as they are challenged, and without fail the diverse companions prove their worth and mature further with each stage of the adventure. Throw in strange creatures, curious enchantments, and mysterious, magical islands, and you have an irresistible yarn. Young American readers will find it a bit dated: Originally published in 1952, it’s very British in tone. But kids who are up for the adventure probably will be charmed by those quirks.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about this series. While the Narnia series stands on its own as a fantasy adventure, it also is appreciated as an exploration of Christian themes. How do you see Christian ideas represented here? Do you think Lewis wanted his book to speak specifically to Christians, or do you think he wanted his stories to strike a spiritual chord with readers of other religious faiths?
Do you plan on seeing the movie based on this book? Do you think that movies are ever as good as the books they are based on? If you were going to make this movie, is there anything that you would leave out -- or put in?