Narnia is a pretty fantastic and special place. I genuinely feel pretty sad for any child who hasn’t walked through the wardrobe and pushed back the coats to find themselves in a snow covered wood in a magical and mystical place.
Narnia is the kind of place that can inspire a child to love reading, to love white magic (the kind that God uses for miracles) and to believe in their own kingly or queenly heritage. Narnia is the foundation upon which a life of wonder and awe can be built.
Every family who comes to Narnia comes a different way. No different than Eustace or Peter or Lucy or Diggory or Jill. Everyone’s entry to Narnia comes just at the right time. When Aslan summons, we enter a world of pure fairy tale. I am passionate about counselling new readers towards reading in the publication order – but that is a different discussion for a different post.
In my home, I was adamant about wanting to share Narnia with my children MY way. I wanted the joy of inviting them to join me on a journey into those hallowed woods and further up and further into the Last Battle. I waited until my youngest was 2 and my oldest was 6. And I pulled them to me and we spent many long afternoons and evenings on the couch reading our way through the illustrated series.
After we had finished all of the books, we gave the kids the unabridged audio as a Christmas present (you can also get them via Audible) and we spent months listening to Lynn Redgrave, Patrick Stewart, Kenneth Branagh, Michael York, etc. tickle our imaginations as we put miles on our van driving to the grocery store, church and family events. These masters elevated our reading to another level with their incredible voices and the texture of their reading. They require some stamina as compared to the radio theater versions and so I always try to hook my kids on them first. Once they love them, they love them for life. (We have a post on how to get the most out of an Audible membership here.)
- The Magician’s Nephew narrated by Kenneth Branagh
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe narrated by Michael York
- The Horse and His Boy narrated by Alex Jennings
- Prince Caspian narrated by Lynn Redgrave
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader narrated by Derek Jacobi
- The Silver Chair narrated by Jeremy Northam
- The Last Battle narrated by Patrick Stewart
After we had spent 6 months listening to the unabridged masterpieces, we gave the kids the Focus on the Family radio theater version. I am not a passionate fan of the Focus Radio Theatre productions generally. Some are par excellence. Some are quite mediocre. Despite my loyalty to Focus on the Family this audio bibliophile has little stomach for the botch job they did with Ben Hur and the annoying retelling of Anne of Green Gables. These are not great examples of their radio theater. The CS Lewis estate, however, is scrupulous in their choices about when and how to share the rights to Lewis’s works. (I think that their Disney movie experience has left them wiser and much more careful). As such, Douglas Gresham has chosen wisely in his partnership with Focus. Narnia, Screwtape and Mere Christianity radio theater productions are all masterworks.
I have ripped the Narnia cds to my computer and for more than a year my children listened to them almost daily. My 6 year old would lay in bed in the morning for an hour just listening to The Silver Chair or The Dawn Treader – again and again and again.
We keep the unabridged audios in our van. We reach for the cds periodically and always love to get lost in Narnia on a long car ride. Around the house, for daily listening, the Focus on the Family Radio Theater continues to elevate our thinking and enrich our imagination.
FYI: Screwtape and Mere Christianity are truly excellent. If you are a Lord of the Rings fan you will recognize Andy Serkis’s (the voice of Gollum) voice as Screwtape. And Mere Christianity is both the book and a radio theater production of the story behind the writing of Mere Christianity.