Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Classic Children's/YA: Harriet Whitehorn on The Magician's Nephew and The Silver Chair by CS Lewis

I'm a big fan of Harriet Whitehorn and Becka Moor's brilliant Violet series - I reviewed Violet and the Pearl of the Orient here, and haven't quite got round to reviewing Violet and the Hidden Treasure yet, but really enjoyed it. Today is a huge day for Harriet and Becka as it's not only the release date for the second book, but it's also the Waterstones Children's Book prize announcement - and Violet and the Pearl of the Orient is one of six books shortlisted in an incredibly strong 5-12 category! I was thrilled that Harriet could take the time to join in my classic children's feature.

I enjoyed all the Narnia books as a child, but the two I really loved, and read over and over again, were The Silver Chair and The Magicians Nephew. Like the rest of the series they are beautifully illustrated by Pauline Baynes and I only have to look at her pictures to be transported back to being nine years old again and devouring these books instead of tidying my bedroom or doing my homework. Sadly my own copies disintegrated years ago but they looked the same as these copies that Ive bought for my children.

As many of you will know, The Magicians Nephew is the prequel to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe but was actually published last in 1954. It wasnt as critically acclaimed as the other books, but to me it has an appealing mix of lightness and sadness - Digorys mother is dying- and it is the funniest of the books. The two main characters, Polly and Digory bicker away like an old married couple, making one poor decision after another, unlike those goody two shoes Pevensies, who apart from Edmund, never seem to put a foot wrong. Also a good deal of the action takes place in Edwardian London, which I like, and there is a glorious scene with awful Uncle Andrew and Queen Jadis (later to become the White Witch) which culminates in her driving, Boadicea-like, a hackney cab as if it were a Roman chariot.  


I do love The Silver Chair - from the opening line It was a dull autumn day and Jill Pole was crying behind the gym- you know you are in for a treat. Our dull world is soon replaced by technicolour Narnia and Aslan has given Jill and Scrubb the task of finding the lost Prince Rilian, and the signs they need to follow. Reassuringly, they repeatedly mess these up. They are helped by one of my all time favourite characters, Puddleglum the Marsh-wiggle. Gloriously pessimistic, he is the Eeyore of Narnia, and unfailingly and amusingly, sees the worst possible outcome of every situation. My favourite scene is when he gets very drunk at the Giants castle referring to himself as a Very respectable Marsh-wiggle. Respectowiggle. What could be funnier for a nine year old?

Harriet Whitehorn grew up in London, where she still lives with her husband and three daughters. She has studied at Reading University, the Architectural Association and The Victoria and Albert Museum and has always worked in building conservation. She currently works for English Heritage. Violet and the Pearl of the Orient was her first novel, published in 2014, and is currently shortlisted for the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize. Violet and the Hidden Treasure is published on 26th March 2015.

Thanks for a fab post, Harriet - and GOOD LUCK for the prize tonight!

1 comment:

  1. Ahhhhhhh, The Chronicles of Narnia - one of the few book series I still actually have from my childhood - sadly the books themselves are showing their age and are for want of a better word... falling apart but I treasure those books (and why aren't mine illustrated *feels cheated hehe*)

    I read them so many times when I was younger but haven't read them for years - maybe it's time for a re-read :)