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The Magician's Nephew Critique and Activities for Lesson Plans

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Cover of C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew, The Chronicles of Narnia SeriesLewis, C.S. (Clive Staples).  The Magician’s Nephew.  Ill. Pauline Baynes.  New York: Harper Collins, 1994.

Category: Science Fiction, Quest, Category A

Approximate age group: Upper Elementary

Analysis: 

There seems to be no end to the magic of C.S. Lewis.  In this, the first book in the renumbered series, “The Chronicles of Narnia”, Digory’s Uncle Andrew tricks Digory and Polly into using magic rings.  The two children find themselves on an adventure they will not soon forget, and adventure that has them crossing worlds, encountering an evil queen, and witnessing the creation of the land of Narnia. 

Though their quest seems accidental, the two friends have a higher purpose.  They endure tests of virtue and friendship, and must make quick-witted decisions in their adventures, deeming them heroes in the end. 

The formatting of this book is perfect for its target age group (5th grade and up).  The pages are like that of most adult mass-market paperbacks; the size of the font is just a touch larger and a bit more space is given between lines.  It is well organized, consistent, and easy to follow, all especially important aspects considering the readers’ transition to novels of this caliber (not to mention the fantastical magic underlying messages to be had).  The concept of series books is a sought after concept made by children of this age group! 

On the pages before the title page, children will find a full-page “Map of Narnia and the Surrounding Counties”, and a page listing the seven books of the series (also found in the back). 

After the dedication page, children will find a four-page cast of characters, the books from this series they appear in, and a brief synopsis of their character, what roles they play, and other names they are known as. 

The table of contents gives number, title, and page start of the fifteen chapters; of which, the last chapter, “The End of This Story and the Beginning of All the Others”, could be considered an Epilogue.  The chapters always begin on an odd numbered page, regardless of where the previous chapter ends.  Chapter titles are centered on the upper right of all odd pages, aside from chapter start pages which are distinguished by the chapter number, a small illustration representing the chapter as a whole, and the chapter title. 

C.S. Lewis in his housecoat.

C.S. Lewis in his housecoat.

On the inside back cover is a brief biography of “Clive Staples Lewis”.  The back cover gives a brief draw-in and review of the book, and gives yet another listing of the seven chronicle titles. 

Pauline Baynes, Illustrator of Chronicles of Narnia.  Photo by Martin Pope

Pauline Baynes, Illustrator of Chronicles of Narnia.  Photo by Martin Pope

The illustrations in this book are well suited.  Baynes is the illustrator of all seven of the original chronicles.  Her black and white ink drawings are much like elaborate rubber stamps.  They always work well with the subject matter, and their placement on the pages is aesthetically pleasing.  Not only do Baynes’ illustrations show motion, character, and setting, but also there are just enough of them to enhance the plot line and to help landmark the readers’ spot in the story; an important feature for readers of this level. 

While children will have no trouble reading this quest on their own, they would benefit from listening to Lewis’ rich language and texture read to them.

Activities: 

Because of the wonderful images Lewis has created, have the students get into small groups and made a mural recreating one of their favorite scenes for a hallway display. 

And by all means, go on to the next chronicle!