The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair and The Last Battle.
I am assuming that you’ve read the Narnia books. If you haven’t, prepare yourself for the odd spoiler and make sure your kids don’t miss out.
Every childhood should have a bit of magic in it.
When I was a kid it took me a few attempts to get into Voyage of the Dawn Treader. All the introductory stuff about Eustace and his family was a bit of a slog. It’s only a couple of pages but all that text can be a bit much for kids.
The standout parts, for me, were always Eustace’s incident with the dragon and the Dufflepuds. The transformation of Eustace back into a boy was quite fascinating, particularly the bit where he had to keep peeling his skin off, (I know, it’s gross – but that’s kids for you I guess).
Frankie’s preferences were “Deathwater island and I liked how he was looking for all these people and found them.”
When I was her age I thought water that turned everything to gold was great too. But nowadays (and having learned through experience that it’s the moment you take your eyes off the kids, that they’re going to fall off something), the idea of something that will kill you if you fall into it by mistake is not so good.
She found some parts scary (and I always say that you have to read through those bits so you know how they turn out and don’t have nightmares – which is why I endure horror movies to the end), and there were bits she found dull. But her guiding star throughout the whole book was Reepicheep, that two feet tall talking rodent. Just like Lucy, she wanted to cuddle him and bring him home. (Fortunately she hasn’t started dragging me to pet shops to eye up potential candidates).
Unfortunately Reepicheep isn’t in The Silver Chair.
Now, this is one of my favourites. There’s a darker edge to this book and Jill is by far my favourite character. She’s tough, sassy and not as upper middle class as the Pevensies (not with a name like ‘Pole’). She isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty and she messes up, right from the start.
This is a gritty adventure with ogres and witches and enchantments and nearly being baked in a pie.
And there’s a Marshwiggle. Possibly the best fantasy character ever invented.
But it didn’t really float Frankie’s boat. Maybe it was a bit too dark. Too many giants, not enough Aslan and talking mice.
But then we get to The Last Battle.
“Why is it the last battle?”
“Why is everything going wrong? Please tell me it’ll be all right!”
“I hate Shift, he’s horrible.”
“I love Aslan.”
“But Puzzle is a nice donkey – why is everyone being so mean to him?”
“I really hate Shift.”
“I hate those dwarves too.”
“I want Puzzle to come and live with me.”
“How can all the others be there when Aslan said they couldn’t come back to Narnia?”
“No. No it can’t be the end! I want Narnia to go on and on for ever. I want to go to Narnia. I want to see Mr Tumnus again”
I guess it’s fair to say that The Last Battle has it all, highs, lows, death, betrayal, more death, the end of the world, Aslan, more Aslan, more Narnia, a bit more death and a big slap-bang happy ever after.
Oh – and Reepicheep. (Forever).