Monday, August 7, 2017

MMGM: Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday pick:

First edition The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
by C. S. Lewis and Pauline Baynes
Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Written by C. S. Lewis
Illustrated by Pauline Baynes
HarperCollins, 1952
Ages 8-12, Lexile 720L256 pages, 54000 words


Opening:
There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. His parents called him Eustace Clarence and masters called him Scrubb. I can't tell you how his friends spoke to him, because he had none. He didn't call his Father and Mother "Father" and "Mother," but Harold and Alberta. They were very up-to-date and advanced people. They were vegetarians, non-smokers and teetotalers and wore a special kind of underclothes. In their house there was very little furniture and very little clothes on beds and the windows were always open.

Eustace Clarence liked animals, especially beetles, if they were dead and pinned on a card. He liked books if they were books of information and had pictures of grain elevators or had pictures of fat foreign children doing exercises in model schools.

Eustace Clarence disliked his cousins the four Pevensies, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. But he was quite glad when he heard that Edmund and Lucy were coming to stay. For deep down inside him he liked bossing and bullying; and, though he was a puny little person who couldn't have stood up even to Lucy, let alone Edmund, in a fight, he knew that there are dozens of ways to give people a bad time if you are in your own home and they are only visitors.


Thoughts:
How amazing is that opening? Reminds one of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, doesn't it, with its tongue-in-cheek way of showing us Eustace's personality and the author's opinion of "advanced people?"

Edmund and Lucy return to Narnia to help Caspian regain the lost parts of his island kingdom and to find his missing subjects. I like the questing format of this particular book and the series of short adventures the characters face. That and the old-fashioned writing may not appeal to every child. For more reluctant readers, try reading aloud or audio versions. We thoroughly enjoyed reading them together around the fireplace when the kids were little, I think we started when the youngest was 3 and the oldest foster child was 12. Now we revisit them periodically with the audiobooks. Lynn Redgrave does an amazing job, as does Derek Jacobi, narrator of The Dawn Treader. Every child and adult should read the series, or at least the core books about the Pevensies, at least once in their lives.

If nothing else, the introduction to Narnia may open the door to a life-long love of fantasy.


A Note on the Christian Aspects:
I probably should address the spiritual nature of the books. The author started the series with the question, "What if the Son of God chose to come to Earth as a lion instead of a man?" and then he wrote a story. So yes, everything C. S. Lewis believed about God and his salvation was a basis for these books. He purposely portrayed different aspects of his beliefs into the story. Many of the characters react as Lewis would himself, because of his religious convictions. The world-building rests on similar principles to actual Christianity. That offends some people. I still think you should read them.

Not that you asked for it, but here's more of my opinion. Every single book you read reflects the moral beliefs of the author, sometimes overtly, sometimes unintentionally.  Sometimes the author is wondering what would happen if. Sometimes the author wants to present multiple sides of an issue. Many times books purposely question the validity of religious or moral views. In every case, the author has an opinion. In every case, the author has to decide his agenda: Throw uncertainty on an issue? Dissuade the reader from a previous belief? Present multiple options as valid? Highlight an area of ambiguity in the author's mind and leave it open to the reader to decide?
Let's stop pretending books are somehow morally ambiguous. And please let's drop the pretense of separation of church and state. If you want everyone's views to be represented, then you shouldn't reject a book because it presents a religious point of view.

OK. Got a lot to say on these issues but let's move on to...


Bonus: 
1. A timeline of the creation of the Chronicles of Narnia.
2. I reviewed the movie version last Friday on the Summer Drive-In.
3. More gorgeous covers

Art by Steve Lavis
Art by Chris Van Allsburg

Art by Leo and Diane Dillon
Anyone know the cover artist?

Art by Pauline Baynes
4. For more C. S. Lewis:
Check out the Hopeful Heroine's review of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,
G. S. Prendergast's review of The Silver Chair,
AshyGirl15's review of The Magician's Nephew,
an overview of The Chronicles of Narnia as a series on Carstairs Considers,
and reviews of The Magician's Nephew, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Horse and His Boy, The Silver Chair, and The Last Battle by Michelle Isenhoff


5. Other MMGM bloggers recommend The Books of Elsewhere, by Jaqueline West, Illustrated by Poly Bernatene, and the Harry Potter series, by J. K. Rowling, illustrated by Mary GrandPre. The Dark is Rising, by Susan CooperThe High King and The Foundling and Other Tales, by Lloyd Alexander. I would wholeheartedly add the entire Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander.

Reviewed by 
the Hopeful Heroine
Reviewed by
Laurisa White Reyes

Reviewed by Kim at Dead Houseplants

Prydain, Book 1
Overview here
Prydain short stories
Reviewed by Michelle




Check out all the recommended titles for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday for August 7, 2017 available on Shannon Messenger's Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe.

Feel free to leave your MG recommendations in the comments. Thanks!

8 comments:

  1. That is such an amazing opening--and it's all "telling" and yet we get such a vibrant picture of who Eustace is and how he will interact with the Pevensies. It's been a long time since I read these books myself, but my husband thoroughly enjoying reading all these with my boys.

    I also liked your points about books not being morally ambiguous. I have yet to read a book that didn't present a certain worldview (perhaps unconsciously--but it's still there). It's something I work on as a writer as well--to make sure my books "say" what I want them to say.

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    1. Thanks, Jenni. I get a lot of good advice from your writers' Group posts. Keep at it!

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  2. An interesting point of comparison, between the beginning to The Dawn Treader and the Harry Potter books' openings. I hadn't noticed the similarity and of course they do not show the immediate scene setting that is in vogue nowadays, but they're equally obviously effective. Thanks for bringing this lovely old book to my attention again, and for being bold in sharing your insights!

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    1. Thanks for reading. I promise to stay off the soapbox for awhile.

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  3. For some reason, I haven't read any of the Narnia books, although I have The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The opening of this book makes me want to try the series. Thanks so much for the review!

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    1. You could read this one out of order if you know the basics of the first book. Definitely check out the movies. I reviewed this one last week. Thanks.

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  4. I've always loved the character development of Eustace.

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    1. I can't believe I go from antipathy to sympathy with him, but that's what good writers do! Thanks!

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Thank-you for taking time to share your thoughts!