A vivid portrait of inspiration and imagination focuses on teamwork and historical fact.
C.S. “Jack” and Warren “Warnie” Lewis were brothers and best friends, curious dreamers and inspired playmates, but they probably never guessed that their games would help fire the imaginations of generations of children. Following the two from early childhood to later life, straightforward, energetic text paired with appealing, specific, and skillful illustrations provides background for the genesis of Lewis’ ideas (Norse legend, Raj-era India, Irish shipyards, and English boarding schools all played a role). However, rather than exclusively focusing on interesting or chronological details (though both are included), McAlister looks at how Narnia was born. She finds its roots in the brothers’ invented worlds, their on-again, off-again partnership, the different directions their lives took, the behavior of wartime refugee children who stayed in their home, and, of course, the presence of a magical wardrobe in their childhood. Lanan’s paintings combine homey views of the family’s Belfast house, pictures, maps, and diagrams of their imagined world, and luminous, magical paintings of Narnia. In a nice touch, the focus extends to the endnotes, where McAlister, as biographer, and Lanan, as illustrator, mention their own research discoveries and related artistic choices.
Masterfully explains how a classic series came to be while maintaining a sense of mystery and wonder. (Picture book/biography. 4-8)