I know I said I was going to stick to my information literacy plan in my last blog post, but we ended up needing an extra post during the current 2-week cycle, so I decided to do something I know how to do off the top of my head. So, today, you get the Narnia thing.
There are some “things” that are just known by people with deep knowledge in certain fields. They inform in-jokes and are a part of the fabric of the shared wisdom of a profession. I don’t 100% know what this looks like in other fields because, as an outsider, I can’t know them… but maybe it’s like the Shakespearean authorship debate in thespian circles. In librarianship, it looks like getting to know each other by finding out which actor a person prefers in the role of Mr. Darcy. This is a thing I can LEARN about a person from. Note: the correct answer is Colin Firth. When we are able to accept collectively that this is the case, we are able to find a commonality in our differences, because at least we agree on that… (record scratch–that’s not actually the point I’m trying to make here and might be better dealt with in an information literacy post). Seriously, I am definitely open-minded enough to coexist with folks who differ in their opinion re: Mr. Darcy casting, in spite of their wrongness. If you really want to go down a rabbit hole, ask librarians to talk about their dream P&P cast… some of us actually have lists.
It’s another one of those librarian “things.” To summarize: there are two different orders that are POSSIBLE for reading the books in a sequence that make logical sense: the order in which they were written (publication) and the order that follows the narrative timeline of the books (chronological). In a fit of apparent madness, CS Lewis said that he felt like the chronological order was best (really, it’s unclear why he said this, but CS Lewis scholars, the actual people who study his work, disagree with him–politely, but in no uncertain terms)… in light of this statement, Lewis’ British publisher promptly reconfigured the series numbering to chronological. This did not catch up with us in the United States until 1995. Because of this, many modern librarians grew up with the order of publication numbering system. Librarians are not known for being good with change, which is remarkable given how much our profession has changed in the last several decades. I’ve already mentioned that this belief is backed up by scholarship. There are lots of points that could be made, but the one I find the most compelling is this: It isn’t as incredibly magical to see how Lantern Waste came to exist until you’ve experienced Lantern Waste as a unexplained fantasy setting in the middle of the woods for the entirety of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. There are scholarly works on the subject, or you can read more at this link from the author’s official website.
I’ve seen kids struggle when told that they will appreciate the series better if they start with the book that currently has a number 2 on the spine. These kids are my kind of people. And I KNOW what that feels like. It feels like being a kid in a darkened movie theater and being super excited to see this Star Wars movie everyone is talking about… only to see Episode IV: A New Hope scroll by and getting mad because clearly there must be a mistake, and where are Episodes I-III anyway? And have it take until everyone is down on Tatooine before realizing that this movie is good, and even if it is Episode IV, it still makes sense, and I’m just going to need to relax or this is going to be a very unpleasant couple of hours for the entire family. I still remember my dad’s voice saying, “Honey, I don’t KNOW… I’m trying to watch the movie here,” in response to my increasingly intense frustration at joining the story at a point which I believed to be mid-way through. Like vividly. Although I have finally forgiven the movie industrial complex, because I don’t think I would have liked Star Wars as a series as much if I’d started with Episode I, I never want to put a kid in a situation when I know how freaked out it would have made kid me… so I figured out the why and the how, and I evangelize for the proper reading order so that everyone can visit Narnia in the order that will create the MOST magic. So, I tell kids to ignore the numbers in this one particular case (OK, two cases… I’m looking at you, entire Star Wars franchise).
Here’s a list that will allow you to fully explore the world of Narnia, if you haven’t done so yet. As should be clear at this juncture, we recommend you start with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.