They say when you find a book that changes your heart, it will never leave you. That book for me is C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe. When I was young, my dad read us this story and transported us to the land of Narnia. There, the land is blanketed in white and a lamp burns bright bright in a clearing of the forest. As my dad read, I could vividly imaging the landscape, the children’s adventures and the comforting presence of Aslan, the Great Lion. There has been no book since then that has truly transported me like that…until Patti Callahan brought Once Upon A Wardrobe into my life.
Once Upon a Wardrobe is not just the brilliantly crafted “Origin Story” of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; it is also the story of the strong bond of siblings, the story of Jack Lewis and his brother‘s lives and a story of the importance of imagination. So let’s give you all a quick synopsis…
Megs Devonshire, a mathematics student at Oxford in the 1950s, has one question to ask Mr. Lewis… “Where did Narnia come from?” A deep question, but an important question that stems from the heart and imagination of her 8-year-old brother, George, who is dying of a heart condition. Megs sees everything through the lense of logic, so she figures it will be an easy answer she can bring home to her ailing brother. But, Jack Lewis has other ways of describing it, and it leads her on a journey with a black notebook writing down the stories he tells her about his life over tea. Finding Narnia is not just a one track answer as she realized, but she learns more from Mr. Lewis, her brother and an unsuspecting friend than she ever could have logically predicted...and it all start with “Once Upon A Wardrobe, not very long ago and not very far away…”
I cannot even begin to describe the emotions this book made me feel. First off, not many books make me cry for a solid 40 pages, but this one did. And, fear not, it was not completely sad tears like a Kristin Hannah book does to me. These tears were of happiness, understanding, how beautiful the writing was and a little bit of grief for George.
Callahan successfully brought me back to why I loved Narnia so much as a child, and also reignited my love for fairytales as an adult. I loved how she took Megs, a girl consumed by logic and solving equations, and turned her into a woman who appreciates logic but also knows that imagination is an important piece to finding sense in the ways of the world. Plus, it shows that you are never too old to reread a ”children’s book” and appreciate it for what it is: a good story.
My entire heart melted at George’s character. He has a hard road…a death wish with his heart condition, and he knows that he will not live much longer, but it does not stop him from dreaming and losing himself in imagination. He has so much wisdom and insight on life as an 8 year old. I about lost it when Megs gave him a sketch pad and colored pencils, and he started to draw beautiful pictures of Aslan watching over C.S. Lewis as he dreamed and carried on through the struggles of his own life. Callahan did an incredible job describing the pictures that I could vividly see them within the frames of my own imagination.
Once Upon A Wardrobe gave me a lot while reading it, including a tear stained face! It made me appreciate the art of storytelling more, embrace my own imagination and also reminded me how much I love and appreciate all of C.S. Lewis’s writing. Thank you, Patti Callahan, for this love letter to Narnia and the affairs of the heart both through the eyes of Megs and George, Mr. Lewis and his brother and imagination itself.
As Douglas Gresham writes at the end of the book, “I advise you to read this book, then wait awhile, and then read it again, for while it may not be Narnia, there is magic in it.” Could not have said it better. Narnia lovers, get to your nearest Indie bookstore and buy this for your shelf immediately!