This is possibly one of the most well known children's fantasy novels. The place is London. The time, 1941, otherwise known as The Blitz when German planes bombed the British capital for 76 straight nights. Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, like many other London children, have been sent to the countryside for their safety. These particular four find themselves the guests of Professor Kirke on his large country estate. Much of the time they are left quite alone and spend their days exploring the large manor house and it's grounds. One one such rainy day, Lucy, the youngest of the siblings discovers an old wardrobe, hidden in an empty room. What she finds inside it though is the real story, for this particular wardrobe is the entrance to a fantastical world, Narnia.
>Narnia is populated by dwarves, satyrs, unicorns, dryads, nymphs, giants, centaurs, and fauns and talking animals. It is also held under the thrall of the White Witch, self-proclaimed Queen of Narnia. Her magic has made it so that it is always winter, yet never Christmas, and those who oppose her are in constant fear of her spies and wand which can turn one into stone at the merest twitch. Lucy is enchanted but her brothers and sister refuse to believe her, thinking her mad. It is only after they all find themselves in Lucy's "make-believe" that they accept she is telling the truth and find themselves the center of war and prophecy.
I first read this story when I was just a child and remember being thoroughly enchanted by it. Reading it aloud to my son, has only improved it. My son is not a lover of fantasy, which as a fantasy reader myself is so disappointing, but this gem may have changed his mind. During the world-building he had quite a bit of trouble getting into the story, but once the adventure really took off he was enthralled. It has already moved to the top of his list, earning a place reserved for his favorite novel.
Seeing the pure joy and amazement in his face as the story unfolded increased my own enjoyment of this book. Though a fairly short book and aimed at children, this story is far from simple. Hidden within the purely fantastical elements is another story, that of Jesus and the Christian faith. CS Lewis was an extremely devout Christian, and all of his books seemed to revolve around this facet of his life. However, he has written the story in such a way that it can be enjoyed without exploring the religious components for those who don't believe or who prefer not to read Christian fiction. With or without the Christian overtones, I consider this book an essential part of any child's library and plan to continue the series with my son.