Books

why we’re nonetheless enchanted by the kids’s literature of the Nineteen Fifties

“Do you actually imply, sir, that there may very well be different worlds… simply across the nook, actually?” asks Peter within the opening chapters of CS Lewis’s timeless masterpiece The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. “Nothing is extra doubtless,” replies the professor, sharpening his glasses. In just a few atypical phrases, the snow-crest Narnia fantasy, first found by Lucy past the nafline garments behind the outdated closet, has change into within the reader’s thoughts not a fantastic product of a kid’s creativeness, however a wizard’s. , alarming parallel actuality that calls for to be taken under consideration.

This week, Sally Cookson’s magnificent stage adaptation of Lewis’ first ebook Narnia returns to London simply in time for the summer time holidays. The story, printed in 1950, stays evergreen, combining heavy philosophical and spiritual concepts with the equipment of a fairy story (evil snow witches, speaking animals, an enchanted land plunged into everlasting winter).

In different phrases, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is that uncommon kids’s ebook—a narrative that not solely takes critically kids’s imaginative view of the world, but in addition their mental and emotional responses to it. The timing of its publication is not any coincidence. The Nineteen Fifties, often called the start of a second golden age in kids’s literature (the primary stretching from Lewis Carroll’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865 to the Edwardian fiction of E Nesbit and JM Barrie) marked the time when kids’s tales have grown. Gone are the wealthy journey tales of Arthur Ransome and the unusual anthropomorphic absurdism of AA Milne.

Subsequent comes Philippa Pearce’s Tom’s Midnight Backyard (1958), an unsettlingly unusual fable of displacement, mortality and historic connection that is still maybe the best-loved British kids’s ebook of all time. Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth Sequence (1954), a superlative assortment of historic novels set through the Roman Empire that grapple with deep questions on empire, id, and nationhood. Mary Norton’s The Debtors (1952), a deceptively candy fairy story a couple of species of tiny people at risk. The unsettling explorations of religion that continued with Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia.

“Lots of the novels of the Second Golden Age, significantly the fantasy novel, have been concerning the psychological dimension of childhood,” says Dr Lucy Pearson, lecturer in kids’s literature at Newcastle College. “They don’t seem to be educated in an overt approach, however they’re all for confronting issues which are laborious to handle immediately.” All stay cornerstones of kids’s literature—tales we return to many times.

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