31 May 2008
One of the trickiest questions I often get at work is, "Which is the first Narnia book?" It's a tricky question because there is a correct answer--The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe--but it is being undermined by the insistence in recent years of publishing them in chronological order within the narrative, rather than as originally released; hence, starting with The Magician's Nephew, whose action predates that in "Lion", Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair, and The Horse and his Boy. I'm not sure who came up with this idea--I have even seen it floated somewhere that it was Lewis' wish to re release them so. But in this age of prequels, alternate endings, and companion volumes, I find it difficult to believe that today's savvy young readers would be confused by reading a history of Narnia's inception after they have already read the previous five books. So, when some poor, unsuspecting soul asks me which is the first Narnia book, I give them the spiel about the debate.....and then hand them whichever of the two is actually on the shelf (mustn't send them away empty handed.) The release of "Lion" in the theatre has helped to reassert it's position as the lead-off title. And now, The Horn Book, the children's literature Bible, has taken its stance on the issue. How nice to be right ^_^
Of course, the second part of this issue is: "What?! You mean you don't intrinsically know all of the Narnia books by heart? They're not etched on your soul?!" That incites the same feeling of being flabbergasted as when someone asks me for a recommendation for a 2nd-4th grader, and they answer the statement, "Well, I'll assume you have already read Charlotte's Web," with, "No."
How is that possible?!