In this wonderfully imagined reworking of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe the door to the library is the entry to a magical world,
“ where story characters lived for real, undiscovered facts battled to gain attention, words caused earthquakes.”
The four Hastings children; Simon, Patricia, Evelyn and Larry (permanently attached to Grey Bear) have been sent away from their bomb-damaged home in London at the end of WWII to stay with a friend of their grandmother, Professor Diana Kelly. Unwittingly, they have become a part of her “Magician Project”, secretive research to find an end to human conflict…using the most powerful magic available!
Everyone familiar with the narrative of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe will recognise the story arc: the children arrive at a beautiful, old Manor House, they are left to explore independently, the youngest child (Larry) finds a secret portal into a magical world and his older siblings accuse him of fantasising! However, following a raid on the house by special forces who are investigating the Professor’s top secret project, all four children find themselves in the magical library, and discover the battle between fiction (The Reads) and fact (The Unreads) in the Kingdom of Folio.
I have to admit to being a little worried, when I first saw publicity for this book, that it might ruin one of my own favourite childhood stories. However, the finely-honed imagination of Piers Torday has produced an exquisite re-working of the original with a library and books and words as the focus of the magic. The children’s individual characters are brought to life with absolute authenticity and the battle between good and evil in Folio had me turning pages faster than a futuristic flying car can cross a fairy tale landscape. Every so often I had to back-track to fully appreciate the stunning power of Piers Torday’s beautiful writing; metal doors swing open “with hydraulic formality” and smile at his humorous asides – when Larry is asked by an incredulous Tom Thumb what he learns in school, he replies “grammar mostly!”
As with all the best children’s books, this one contains a message of hope and ultimately, I think, it is a book about the power of love, recognising our imperfections and celebrating our common humanity.
Highly recommended for all readers of 9+.
This is #Book9 in my #20BooksofSummer challenge hosted by Cathy at 746Books.