A Book Review by Jackie Houchin
LETTERS TO CHILDREN by C.S. Lewis is a delightful collection of short notes and letters that the “Narnia” author wrote to children in answer to their letters over a period of about nineteen years, from 1944 – 1963. Lewis received thousands of letters from young readers. He believed that answering these letters was a God-given duty. (The last letter was written just the day before he died!)
Many of the first letters told how much the children liked one or more of the series. Lewis always thanked them for saying so at the beginning of each of his responses. Sometimes the children would ask questions, such as when the next book would come out, in what order they should read the series (The Magician’s Nephew first), and about the characters, meanings, and themes in the books.
He answered one boy’s question this way, “The books don’t tell us what happened to Susan. She is left alive in this world at the end, having by then turned into a rather silly, conceited young woman. But there is plenty of time for her to mend, and perhaps she will get to Aslan’s country in the end.”
Occasionally a remark or question would be about his other books. And quite often he would remark about England’s foul weather, which was “doing my old bones a bit of no good!” He always answered their letters with kindness and with details according to their age.
Lewis kept a “index” of the letters, and could continue on with conversations over the months and years with some of the children (or occasionally with a parent).
Some of the frequent letter-writers would send Lewis either drawings of his characters, or stories and poems that they wrote themselves. He would always comment, some with helpful critiques and suggestions. “The content of the poem is good but the verse “creaks” a bit!”
He would often encourage them to write stories of their own, even to continue the Narnia story. And there was always a deprecating bit of humor about himself. “I’m so glad you liked the Narnian books. Everyone is pleased, you know, to be appreciated, even elderly authors!”
With the older, frequent-correspondents, he would mention his wife, how she very sick she was. This one was so sweet. “I’m sure Aslan knows best and whether He leaves her with me or takes her to His own country, He will do what is right. But of course, it makes me very sad. I am sure you and your mother will pray for us.”
And my favorite, “If you continue to love Jesus, nothing much can go wrong with you, and I hope you may always do so. I’m so thankful that you realized the “hidden story” in the Narnian books. It is odd, children nearly always do, grown-ups hardly ever.”
The book begins with a nice Introduction and a few pages about his own childhood with insights into the writing of the Narnia tales.