Once upon a time, I earned a Master's Degree in Literature and was a Professor of Literature and Composition. I had a wonderful time writing my Master's Thesis about Children's and Young Adult Literature, and I considered earning a Ph.D. so that I could continue to pursue the written word, including British, American, Latin American and other Global Literatures, Children's and Young Adult Literature, all types of genres and occasionally even poetry. But life takes you in unexpected directions, and so now I am working for a non-profit agency (you can read about that on my other blog, A Little Bit of Wonder). Although my job keeps me too busy to post as many book reviews as I would like, Recommended Reading is a place where I can continue to share my literary discoveries and knowledge as time allows.

Please note that I post reviews for books that I recommend reading, just like the blog title says. This means that I typically won't post a review for a book that I completely dislike. This isn't because I shy away from making negative comments, but rather because I don't want to waste your time or mine (I won't even bother to finish a book if it's not any good). For more on this, see the explanation of my Rating System.)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Book Review: The Horse and His Boy

Harry Potter and the Twilight Series are prominently stacked in the all the bookstore windows, perhaps helping you realize that adults can and often do enjoy the same novels as their children or their younger siblings. It might make you think back to your own childhood favorites – and maybe you’d like to pick up a copy of those beloved books for your kids, or even yourself. But there are even more gems hidden in the Children’s Section of the bookstore – and 2011 is the time to picked them up and let them transport you to another world.

From among them, The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis should be at the top of your list. Many people have heard of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the first in Lewis’s series The Chronicles of Narnia. Even if you’re not an avid reader of Children’s Literature or Fantasy, you’re probably aware of the many film adaptations of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which include a BBC production in the 1980s and the Disney/Walden Media movie released in 2005. But while the rest of Lewis’s Chronicles have a devoted following amongst Christians, who have posted many rave reviews of The Horse and His Boy on Amazon, the series overall enjoys less fame in the mainstream market, The Horse and His Boy being no exception.

Among the rest of the series, the novel may seem less important because the story does not impact the overall fate of Narnia, yet readers will enjoy (re)discovering The Horse and His Boy. It is a story of numerous harrowing escapes and mistaken identity. The main character Shasta is one of Harry Potter’s many antecedents, in good company among all the orphans in Children’s Literature who discover that they are somehow special. Shasta, his fellow runaway Aravis and their talking horses Bree and Hwin may not be particularly complex characters, but the way that Lewis weaves together the story of their getaway with the tale of another escape will hold readers’ attention – almost as much as Shasta’s fearsome encounter with the great Lion Aslan.

Be aware that the novel isn’t exactly P.C. – Lewis contrasts the fair and noble Narnians with the swarthy, proud and selfish Calormenes, depicting the tensions between the West and the Middle East in very cut-and-dried terms. The white guys are the good guys here, without question, although there are some sympathetic Calormenes. If you’re giving this to your children to read, that is an important subject for discussion. But keep in mind that what Lewis probably thought was the most important element of his story: that ultimately Narnians and Calormenes alike had to submit to the authority of Aslan, who is wiser than even the most gentle and good of the Narnian kings and the most humble and beloved of the Narnian talking horses.

1 comment:

  1. Your review of The Horse and His Boy is pithy and poignant! This is my favorite Chronicle of Narnia.


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