Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Discussion Questions for “Voyage of the Dawn Treader”

Here’s the latest set of discussion questions in the Summer Reading Project. Previous postings here on The Book Den explain the program and include discussion questions for the first two books in C.S. Lewis’ classic adventure series, The Chronicles of Narnia. Please check them out here, here, here, and here. In addition, you can check out how the first Narnia dinner party/discussion worked out at this post.

As we have said previously, you may not need any conversation starters other than the general questions that work the best for any book discussion. Those questions, of course, include the following. Did you like the book? What did you learn from it? Were there any characters, incidents, passages, or even single lines that made an impact on you? Were there things in the book you had questions about or disagreements? What were some of the most memorable things about the book?

Questions for Kids (and adults)

1) Why didn’t the Pevensie kids like Eustace?
2) There was only one picture in Aunt Alberta’s house that the Pevensie kids liked.  Can you describe it?
3) Who was the most valiant of the all the Talking Beasts of Narnia?
4) Who was captain of the Dawn Treader?
5) Who was left back in Narnia to serve as the Regent in Caspian’s name?
6) Instead of the special wine that everyone loved, what did the whining Eustace want to eat?
7) Whose image was on the door of Caspian’s cabin?
8) Where was Reepicheep’s favorite place on the Dawn Treader?
9) What was the name of the evil governor of the Lone Islands?
10) What name did Pug call Eustace?
11) Eustace was so lazy and cowardly that he didn’t want to work...even to keep the ship from sinking!  Also, he was so selfish and sneaky that he stole water. What do you think about these things?
12) What happened to Eustace after he slipped the diamond bracelet on his arm?And to whom had that bracelet originally belonged?
13) Who freed Eustace from being a dragon? How?
14) What danger did the Dawn Treader crew face just a few days after leaving Dragon Island?
15) What was the danger of Goldwater Island? In fact, there were two dangers. What were they?
16) What did the Dufflepuds choose instead of being ugly?
17) How was the Dawn Treader repaired after the sea serpent’s attack?
18) What had happened to Lord Revilian, Lord Argoz, and Lord Mavramorn?
19) What did the people in the submarine forest ride?
20) What does Reepicheep throw into the sea when he decides to sail towards Aslan's land? Why?
21) Near the end of the book, Aslan appears as another kind of animal. What is it?

Questions for Adults (and kids)

1) Eustace’s parents were proud to be “very up-to-date and advanced people” but unfortunately, that meant they were pretty lousy parents.  Lewis’ satirical descriptions of Eustace and his parents seem to have a lot of relevance to our day, don’t you think?
2) Eustace wasn’t tough but he still knew a dozen ways to be a bully. Can you comment?
3) What was different about the “secret country” of the Pevensie children and the “secret country” that other people imagine?
4) What was the main purpose of Caspian’s voyage?
5) What was Reepicheep’s “higher hope” for the voyage?
6) Eustace’s diary provided a pretty damning record of his selfishness and ignorance. Sometimes our sins follow us. And, in our blindness and stubbornness, we sometimes even draw attention to those sins ourselves.
7) Though Eustace treated Reepicheep especially shamefully, the mouse was the most insistent on going to rescue him.
8) Eustace’s “Dragonish thoughts” led to actually becoming a dragon. As a man thinks...
9) When Eustace realizes he’s become a dragon, there is an instant sense of power that he could use against his enemies. But it is immediately followed by “an appalling loneliness.” Sin brings curses, not comfort.
10) Eustace had too many “skins” and he learned that salvation couldn't come from his own efforts, no matter how eager and dedicated he was to change himself. He needed the gracious efforts of Aslan to “undragon” him.
11) Edmund accepts Eustace’s apology but then makes an admission of his own. What was it?
12) Following Eustace's deliverance, there were still a few “lapses.”  But we are assured that “the cure had begun.” That begs the question — “How's sanctification working out for you?”
13) Lord Bern told Caspian that he had long opposed Gumpas’ slave trade.  Yet Lord Bern himself was part of it. After all, he had purchased Caspian!  How easy for us too to criticize certain things...while being involved in them ourselves.
14) Even though Lord Bern had tolerated slavery, Caspian graciously allowed him to help him in overthrowing Gumpas and ending slavery.
15) Gumpas “acknowledged the king of Narnia as his lord” but, in actual practice, acted directly against the king’s law. You think C.S. Lewis might have been making a larger point here?
16) Gumpas’ rule was marked by injustice, greed, sloppiness, and inept bureaucracy.  Caspian called it “Going Bad.” Again, does any of this sound familiar?
17) Gumpas’ argument for slavery wasn't only about it being profitable but also progressive. How dastardly that word can be misused.
18) Lord Bern (now the Duke) says that the closing of the slave market “might lead to war with Calormen.”  Even so, it was the right thing to do.  Standing for the right will often create controversy, opposition, and other serious problems. But one must stand for the right.
19) Reepicheep’s mind “was full of forlorn hopes, death-or-glory charges, and last stands.” Are these kind of romantic, chivalrous ideals healthy?
20) “Drinkable light.” Does this bring any Scriptures to mind?
21) Describe the temptations Lucy faced on the Island of Invisible Voices?
22) Aslan tells Lucy, “I call all times soon.” Isn't this a comfort, one that suggests that God's sovereignty, patience, and justice is being worked out?
23) The Dark Island is where dreams come true...the wrong kind of dreams. Lord Rhoop certainly learns a lesson; namely, that man cannot control his own mind, let alone his environment.
24) Caspian cannot fool or force his men to sailing further.  He must let them choose. This suggests an important lesson in leadership.
25) Lucy says to Aslan, “It isn’t Narnia, you know.  It’s you!”
26) “This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you man know me better there.”

Discussion questions for the other books in the series will be posted as we go along. Look for those dealing with The Silver Chair in a few days.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Narnia Party

There were several charming moments from the dinner party we hosted last night as part of our Summer Reading Project, “Aslan Is On The Move” which, as you can guess, has us deeply involved with the C.S. Lewis books, The Chronicles of Narnia. And out of the 15 present at our party, 7 of them were “visiting” Narnia for the very first time! How cool is that? It certainly helps us believe this project was a success. What a delight to hear their excitement and wonder, to relish their laughter and appreciation, and to benefit from the life lessons they were learning from the books.

Our conversation last night covered the first four books of the series (using the modern method of numbering them) and involved readers from age 70 to age 9. Indeed, the highlight of the evening may have been 9-year old Rebecca explaining how effectively Lewis communicated important spiritual truths to kids in these books.

That leaves for our next party/discussion the last three books in the series: 5) The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, 6) The Silver Chair, and 7) The Last Battle. Some of have already dived into #5. Later on this evening, I'll post here some review and discussion questions for Dawn Treader, as I did for the four earlier books. But we haven't set that date yet. It will probably be late August sometime. We will let you know and, of course, we would love to have you all join in!

Thanks again to everyone who has been a part, including 4 adults who are reading the books but couldn't make it to the party.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Discussion Questions for “Prince Caspian”

Here’s the latest set of discussion questions in the Summer Reading Project. Previous postings here on The Book Den explain the program and include discussion questions for the first two books in C.S. Lewis’ classic adventure series, The Chronicles of Narnia. Please check them out here, here, and here.

As we have said previously, you may not need any conversation starters other than the general questions that work the best for any book discussion. Those questions, of course, include the following. Did you like the book? What did you learn from it? Were there any characters, incidents, passages, or even single lines that made an impact on you? Were there things in the book you had questions about or disagreements? What were some of the most memorable things about the book?

But if you think any of the questions below might add a bit to your discussion, please use what you like.

Questions for Kids (and adults)

1) Where were the children when the magic transported them to Narnia?
2) What do the children find to eat in the ruins of Cair Pavel?
3) What was the name of Peter’s sword?
4) The Dwarf wanted something besides apples for breakfast.  So, what did he do?
5) What was the name of the wicked king of Narnia?
6) What happened to the “seven noble lords”?
7) What did Doctor Cornelius give to Caspian before he ran away?  And how was that gift used later?
8) What was the name of the badger who befriended Caspian?
9) What gift did the Three Bulgy Bears offer Caspian when they first met?
10) What kind of animal was he Pattertwig?
11) What did you think of Reepicheep?
12) Where did Caspian and the Narnians decide to fight the battle with King Miraz? Why did they choose that spot?
13) Who volunteered to travel to Cair Pavel to try and find help for Caspian’s forces?
14) What did D.L.F. stand for?  Who was it used to describe?
15) Who challenged King Miraz to single combat?
16) Who actually killed King Miraz?
17) What happened to Reepicheep in the battle?

Questions for Adults (and kids)

1) Things looked bleak when the children were first in the ruins of Cair Pavel “but the spirit of adventure was rising in them all.”  That “spirit of adventure” can certainly help us deal with gives to suffering and other challenges, can’t it?
2) The “old Narnians” were forced to be rebels. That’s not unlike modern times in America where conservatives are the counter-culture.
3) King Miraz not only hated and feared Old Narnia, he hated and feared anyone who even remembered Old Narnia.  Does that remind you of how culture leaders of our day work so hard at historical revisionism?
4) At the price of his head, Doctor Cornelius was forbidden by the government (King Miraz) to teach things that were politically incorrect. That’s yet another sad parallel to modern times.
5) Caspian wasn’t a natural Narnian.  He was a Telmarine.  Yet he loved Narnia for what it represented.
6) King Miraz and his court denounced and disbelieved the stories of Aslan coming from the sea. Nevertheless, they were deathly afraid of the sea. The irreligious do not believe because of a lack of evidence, but simply because they refuse to accept the changes that would come from belief in God.
7) King Miraz, like all dictators, allowed no opposition at all, even if it required him to use guile, injustice, and even violence as governing tools.
8) Consider the moral challenge of Truffelhunter’s boast of steadfastness.  “Badgers don’t change.  We hold on.”
9) “Narnia was never right except when a son of Adam was King.”
10) Trumpkin represents the danger of disloyalty and selfishness within the ranks.  And disbelief too.  Remember his skepticism?  “Who believes in Aslan nowadays?”
11) Another profound line suggests the need for courageous faithfulness to the call for spiritual warfare. “It now seemed to them quite possible that they might win a war and quite certain that they must wage one.”
12) In spite of danger Edmund says, “But we want to be here, don’t we, if Aslan wants us?”
13) “Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”     “That is because you are older, little one,” answered he…“Every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”
14) Lucy was prepared to follow Aslan even if her siblings wouldn’t.  Oh yes; sometimes faithfulness to God presents a lonely path.
15) Susan’s failure to believe in Aslan, even though she had in earlier times, is a picture of all of us sometimes.  She had “listened to fear” rather than what she knew in her heart was true.
16) Nikabrik discounted Aslan’s resurrection (just as skeptics do today) and it led him into partnerships with dastardly evils.
17) And those dastardly evils ( the Hag and the Wer-Wolf) tried to win over the Narnians by stealth. For instance, they hid behind disguises and lied about their purposes.
18) Nikabrik “had gone sour from long suffering and hating.”
19) The ranks of evil are often divided among themselves as in Sopespian and Glozelle conspiring against King Miraz.
20) what do you think about the spread of joy that followed the Narnian victory?
21) Caspian’s awareness of his lack of sufficiency to be king was, to Aslan, one of the proofs that he could, in fact, handle the job.

Discussion questions for the other books in the series will be posted as we go along. Look for those dealing with Voyage of the Dawn Treader in a couple of weeks…after we have the first Narnia party at our house!

Friday, July 01, 2016

A Good Children's Story Isn't Only for Children


“A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest.” (C.S. Lewis)

Friday, June 17, 2016

Discussion Questions for “The Horse and His Boy”

Here’s the latest set of discussion questions in the Summer Reading Project. Previous postings here on The Book Den explain the program and include discussion questions for the first two books in C.S. Lewis’ classic adventure series, The Chronicles of Narnia. Please check them out here and here.

As we have said previously, you may not need any conversation starters other than the general questions that work the best for any book discussion. Those questions, of course, include the following. Did you like the book? What did you learn from it? Were there any characters, incidents, passages, or even single lines that made an impact on you? Were there things in the book you had questions about or disagreements? What were some of the most memorable things about the book?

But if you think any of the questions below might add a bit to your discussion, please use what you like.

Questions for Kids (and adults)

1) What made Shasta decide to run away from Arsheesh?
2) What was Bree’s real name?
3) It wasn’t easy for Shasta to learn how to ride a horse.  But he stayed with it.  How about you? Is there something that has taken you a lot of time and practice to learn?
4) Aravis was also a runaway. Where did she flee from? Why? How?
5) There was a strange place outside Taashbaan that people thought was haunted?  What was it called? Was it really haunted? What kind of animal did Shasta meet there?
6) How did the travelers disguise themselves before going into Taashbaan?
7) Talk about mistaken identity!  Who did the Narnians think Shasta was?
8) Who was Sallowpad?
9) What did the travelers have to cross before getting to Archenland?
10) How many times in the story does Aslan show up?  Can you remember each time?
11) Aravis thinks she was “lucky” to have escaped the lion’s attack with only ten minor scratches.  But what was really going on?
12) Aslan tells Shasta that he has waited long for him to speak.  Maybe that should remind us to pray more, to talk to God, and tell Him what’s on our minds. What do you think?
13) What did Duffle and his brothers serve Shasta for breakfast?
14) Describe what the flag of Narnia looked like.
15) What was special about the pool at the Hermit’s house?
16) How did Shasta do in the battle?
17) Why did Bree want to wait a while before entering Narnia?
18) Who is Corin?  Who is King Lune?  Who is Cor?
19) What was Prince Rabadash’s new name?  How did he get it?

Questions for Adults (and kids)

1) Bree was a free horse, a Narnian who disdained to talk “slave’s and fool’s talk.”  It provides an interesting perspective on how one’s noble and liberated position in Christ should show itself in one’s conduct, even one’s speech.
2) Did mere accident bring Shasta, Aravis, Bree, and Hwin all together.  Or does Aslan’s role in the event suggest something about God’s sovereign purpose?
3) Calormen children were taught storytelling as part of their basic education? What do you think about that?
4) Aravis’ escape plan included drugging the maid even though Aravis knew
(and was even glad) that the maid would be unjustly punished.  How is this brought up again in the novel?
5) What’s the one traffic regulation in Calormen?
6) “Easily in but not easily out, as the Taashbaan lobster said in the lobster pot.”  What was the raven referring to here? Do you see any practical applications?
7) We all need to avoid being like the self-centered Lasaraleen who was “much better at talking than at listening.”
8) Why did Lasaraleen think Aravis should marry Ahoshta Tarkaan?
9) What do you think about the father-son relationship of the Tisroc and Prince Rabadash?
10) Consider the contrast between the poetry of Calormen and Narnia.  The first (according to the Vizier) is “full of choice apophthegms and useful maxims.”  While Narnia poetry is that of “barbarians” being “all of love and war.” (By the way, an apophthegm is a real thing. It’s a brief, sometimes cryptic, but more often obvious saying, as in, “The sun will come up tomorrow.”)
11) Bree saw terrible treachery in “an attack in time of peace, without defiance sent.”  Remember, Lewis was writing this novel just a few years after WWII which had started by the Axis Powers doing exactly that in Poland, Austria, and at Pearl Harbor.
12) Shasta’s dismounting to face the lion was impractical and unskilled, but it was certainly brave and thus praiseworthy.  As Bree said later, “He in the right direction.”
13) What do you make of the Hermit of the Southern March?
14) “If you do one good deed your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one.” Do you find this true?
15) Consider the advice the Hermit gave Bree about losing his self-conceit.  It was wise counsel indeed.
16) Aravis mistook Aslan’s mercy for luck.  So did Shasta.  But they both realized eventually just who it was that was involved in their protection
17) One of my favorite images of all the Narnia books is Shasta realizing how dangerous his journey had been when he was walking along sheer cliffs in the fog. After he realized that it had been Aslan who walked alongside him, he remarked, “But, of course, I was quite safe…He was between me and the edge all the time.” I love the sense that stimulates in me of God’s strong and ever-available protection.
18)  Here’s another stirring line from the novel, one particularly relevant to spiritual warfare.  “All swords out now, all shields up to the nose, all prayers said, all teeth clenched.”
19) “Do not dare not to dare.” What’s Going on with this statement?
20) Consider Aslan’s scratching Aravis’ back. What might this suggest about sanctification, the gaining of wisdom through experience, and the discipline of the Lord towards His children?
21) Think about Edmund’s urging mercy be shown towards Rabadash.  Edmund said, “Even a traitor may mend.  I have known one that did.” What’s he remembering?
22) Aslan “seems to be at the back of all the stories.” Is Lewis saying something more than it initially seems here?

Discussion questions for the other books in the series will be posted as we go along. Look for those dealing with Prince Caspian in just a few days.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Discussion Questions for “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”


Repeating The Challenge

“One day, you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” (C.S. Lewis)

Claire and I are organizing a summer reading project of C. S. Lewis’ classic series, The Chronicles of Narnia. We did this a few years ago when I was preaching at Faith Bible Church and things went very well, including a group discussion of the books at a barbecue dinner party we hosted for everyone involved. That party was a grand success: grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, a large cake beautifully decorated in a Narnia motif, and a scintillating discussion among readers from ages 14 to 82.

Well, we’ve decided to ride into Narnia again this summer. We’re inviting people from the church we now attend (Community Bible Church) but since the program is actually self-propelled, we figured a few of our Facebook friends might be interested too. We are making available a few discussion points and questions that might help you, especially if you’ll be reading them with your kids and/or grandkids.

What do you say? Are you ready for the adventure?

Reading order for the Summer Reading Adventure

1) The Magician’s Nephew
2) The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
3) The Horse and His Boy
4) Prince Caspian
5) The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
6) The Silver Chair
7) The Last Battle

Discussion Possibilities for C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe

(Previous guides have been posted earlier on this blog.)

You may not need any conversation starters other than the general questions that work the best for any book discussion. Those questions, of course, include the following. Did you like the book? What did you learn from it? Were there any characters, incidents, passages, or even single lines that made an impact on you? Were there things in the book you had questions about or disagreements? What were some of the most memorable things about the book?

But if you think any of the questions below might add a bit to your discussion, please use what you like.

Questions for Kids (and adults)

1) What are the names of the four human kids featured in the book?
2) Who is the first of those kids to go into Narnia?
3) What did the White Witch use to win Edmund to her side?
4) Edmund acted badly in the beginning of the book, but he was even worse as he got closer to the White Witch.  We all need to be very careful of who we hang out with, don’t we?
5) What happened to Tumnus, the fawn who helped Lucy?
6) What animal helped guide the children to the beavers?
7) The White Witch is dangerous and powerful, but Mrs. Beaver was confident that Aslan was going to put everything right, including saving all the Narnians.  This is similar to the faith we can have in Jesus eventually setting everything right, isn’t it?
8) What kind of animal was Maugrim?  What was his job with the White Witch?
9) What gifts did Father Christmas give to Peter, Susan, and Lucy?
10) What happened to make Edmund feel sorry for someone else “for the first time in the story”?
11) What did you think about the battle?

Questions for Adults (and kids)

1) Why were Peter and the other kids sent out of London? (A quick study on the children sent out from the great cities of Britain to protect them from the Blitz is in order…and it would be an excellent point of history to share with your young readers.)
2) The wardrobe which provides an entrance into another world has a looking glass on the door.  Hmm. Do you recall any precedent?  (Think Lewis Carroll)
3) Consider the drama that is packed into this brief line which describes the dead, drab effects of evil: “Always winter and never Christmas.”
4) Though Tumnus had been in the pay (and fear) of the White Witch, he found the moral strength to do the right thing for Lucy.  There’s always the chance to start again.
5) Edmund’s fanatical passion for Turkish Delight is a vivid symbol, not only of addictive fixations but of the lying nature of sin which always promises satisfaction but never delivers.
6) Edmund is hooked so badly (on Turkish Delight, on his ambitious zeal for power, his desire for revenge on his siblings) that he’s willing to turn them over to the White Witch. Goodness, talk about the blindness caused by sin and its ability to warp even one’s most natural affections.
7) When Edmund was caught by his siblings in his lies, he could have repented, apologized, and started over.  But what did he actually do? What about us?
8) “Aslan is on the move.”  How does that line move you?
9) The mere mention of Aslan’s name thrilled the children.  But Edmund’s thrill wasn’t a pleasant or uplifting one.  Why?
10) Another of the most popular and profound lines of the series is Mrs. Beaver’s description of Aslan.  “Of course, he isn’t safe.  But he’s good.  He’s the King, I tell you.”
11) In chapter 8, C.S. Lewis attempts to underscore the White Witch’s evil origins by connecting her lineage to Lilith, a figure from an aberrant Jewish tradition.Let me be honest, I think it’s a mistake to legitimize this character in any degree. And, for me, it’s the biggest flaw in the whole series. However, in Lewis’ defense, I’ll say two things: A) He certainly had no idea that the modern era (especially through Kabbalah, New Age, and other pagan influences) would put the obscure Lilith back into play. And B) It’s an example of Lewis cramming all kinds of disparate folklore characters into the same story. I mean, he’s got giants, fauns, wraiths, and two dozen other types of folklore and fantasy creatures from different eras and countries…plus Father Christmas! (It reminds me of the Renaissance Festival we attended with my youngest brother and his wife last year where we saw people dressed up in all kinds of costumes inconsistent with the true Renaissance, including cuddly animals and characters from Star Wars!)
12) Edmund’s bad attitude distorted his imagination, making him feel slights from others that were not actually happening.  Sin infects everything.
13) Father Christmas gave gifts to Peter, Susan, and Lucy which were “tools not toys.”  What do you think about this idea?
14) “Battles are ugly when women fight.”  Hmm. Was Father Christmas being a sexist curmudgeon with that opinion…or is he onto something important?
15) What do you think about using this extended greeting next December?  “Merry Christmas!  Long live the true King!”
16) Consider that Peter didn’t feel brave before his first battle.  In fact, he thought he was going to be sick.  “But that made no difference to what he had to do.”
17) Aslan rescues Edmund by paying his penalty, actually dying in his place.  The symbol of Christ’s substitutionary death for sinners could hardly be clearer.


Discussion questions for the other books in the series will be posted as we go along. Look for those connected with The Horse and His Boy in just a few days.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Discussion Questions for "The Magician's Nephew"

The Challenge

“One day, you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” (C.S. Lewis)

Claire and I are organizing a summer reading project of C. S. Lewis’ classic series, The Chronicles of Narnia. We did this a few years ago when I was preaching at Faith Bible Church and things went very well, including a group discussion of the books at a barbecue dinner party we hosted for everyone involved. That party was a grand success: grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, a large cake beautifully decorated in a Narnia motif, and a scintillating discussion among readers from ages 14 to 82.

Well, we’ve decided to ride into Narnia again this summer. We’re inviting people from the church we now attend (Community Bible Church) but since the program is actually self-propelled, we figured a few of our Facebook friends might be interested too. Beginning with this post, we will make available discussion points and questions that might help you, especially if you’ll be reading them with your kids and/or grandkids.

What do you say? Are you ready for the adventure?

Reading order for the Summer Reading Adventure

1) The Magician’s Nephew
2) The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
3) The Horse and His Boy
4) Prince Caspian
5) The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
6) The Silver Chair
7) The Last Battle

Discussion Possibilities for C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew

You may not need any conversation starters other than the general questions that work the best for any book discussion. Those questions, of course, include the following. Did you like the book? What did you learn from it? Were there any characters, incidents, passages, or even single lines that made an impact on you? Were there things in the book you had questions about or disagreements? What were some of the most memorable things about the book?

But if you think any of the questions below might add a bit to your discussion, please use what you like.

Questions for Kids (and adults)

1) Why was Digory so sad in the beginning of the book?
2) What kind of animal did Uncle Andrew use for his experiment to send something to another world?
3) What do you think of Digory’s Uncle Andrew?  What kind of person is he?
4) Who rang the bell that awakened Queen Jadis?
5) The queen was so selfish and mean that she was willing to destroy her own city and all its people to get her way.  Throwing a temper tantrum is an ugly thing right?
6) What is the name of the ruined city that the wicked Queen once ruled?
7) How did Queen Jadis come into London?
8) Polly is willing to forgive Digory and help him even though he got them into a big mess.  Shouldn’t we be quick to forgive too and not just blame?
9) What happened at the lamp post in front of the apartments where Digory & Polly lived?
10) How did Narnia come into existence?
  11) What did you think of the cabby?
12) What was the horse’s name?  What new name did Aslan give him?
13) What special gifts does Aslan give Fledge?
14) What would you do if you had a winged horse?
15) How did Digory’s mother get better?
16) How important was it for Digory to keep his promise to Aslan about the silver apples?

Questions for Adults (and kids)

1) Andrew Ketterley and Queen Jadis believe that rules and morals which apply to other people do not apply to superior types like them.  Ever see this in real life?
2) Andrew Ketterley wants to mess with magic and change the world, but he doesn’t want to risk his own comfort.  Isn’t this true of other social engineers?
3) Digory faces profound temptation twice in this adventure.  How does he fare?  Can you identify?
4) Evil often masquerades as beauty as it does in Queen Jadis.  What do you think about this? What do you think Lewis wants us to recognize?
5) The Queen is described as “terribly practical,” meaning that she has no regard for anything or anyone she can’t exploit for her own ends.  We must be careful to be servants of one another, not users of one another.
6) Digory’s mother’s condition “no help in the world.”  Isn’t that also true of us and some of our problems?  So aren’t you glad there is another world from which supernatural help can come?
7) Aslan’s song was exquisitely beautiful yet Andrew Ketterley hated it.  So did the Queen.  Can you think of any biblical parallels?
8) “Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed.” This observation about Uncle Andrew has wide applications.
9) Aslan requires a confession of Digory yet when that confession is humbly made, Aslan’t grace abounded.  Sound familiar?
10) Aslan knows Digory’s sin has resulted in evil entering Narnia and that will mean real trouble.  But most of that trouble, Aslan says, will fall on him.  What do you think about this?
11) Consider this line: “Aslan isn’t one to make bargains with.”

Discussion questions for the other books in the series to be posted as we go. Look for those connected with The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe in just a few days.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Year (So Far) in Books: Concerned Primarily with Lewis and Dumas

This year’s reading has, to be quite honest, presented quite a challenge.  Sure, there have been some fun, escapist reads along the way (a John D. MacDonald, an Arnold Bennett ghost story, a couple of Ngaio Marsh mysteries, a Mary Roberts Rinehart thriller, and a few others), but most of this year’s books have been in keeping with the New Year’s resolutions I’ve been making for awhile now; namely, to spend more of my evenings with the really quality stuff.  That means the best history, theology, and classic literature.

The theological books read thus far this year have been profound and helpful. There have been a few I had never read before but, as is usual, a lot more which are re-reads. 2016’s list so far includes Heaven by Randy Alcorn, The Snakebite Letters by Peter Kreeft, Fool’s Talk by Os Guinness, Manalive and Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton, and I’m still slogging through Augustine’s Confessions.  Perhaps I should also include in this category also the “space trilogy” of C.S. Lewis: Out of the Silent PlanetPerelandra, and That Hideous Strength.

Other books? The cold war novel by Commander Edward L. Beach, Cold Is the Sea, was very good as was Jeff Shara’s Civil War story, The Smoke at Dawn.  I also enjoyed The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss, Twelfth Night by Edward deVere (aka William Shakespeare), and a reprint of a 1955 classic I picked up in Estes Park, Colorado – Bob Flame, Rocky Mountain Ranger.  Oh yes, there was another truly exceptional book that Claire and I enjoyed via CDs that played while we drove to San Antonio, Texas in our “When Swing Was King” road trip.  It’s a book Claire and I both highly recommend for fun, inspiration, family values, history, and…did I already mention, fun?  The book is Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey.

But the most extensive reading so far in 2016 has been my tackling again the immense series of Alexandre Dumas’ d’Artagnan adventures: The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years AfterThe Vicomte de BragelonneLouise de la Valliere, and finally The Man in the Iron Mask.  3,282 pages of swashbuckling action, mystery, patriotism, romance, international intrigue, history (as liberally re-interpreted by Dumas), heroism, humor, and, of course, virtuous and undying friendship.  After going through these books again, Dumas’ place as one of my five favorite authors is more secure than ever. Indeed, Dumas’ place is so secure that my next project is his 1844 classic, The Count of Monte Cristo.  That's another 1,240 pages. Whew!  

But in the midst of this next Dumas novel, the selection for two months of the Notting Hill Napoleons, we are riding into another grand adventure…a summer reading project of C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. We have invited readers of all ages from our church to join other friends in this fun and inspirational series, complete with discussion guides, quizzes, and a couple of parties where we can talk about what we’re experiencing in Narnia. 

By the way, if you’re interested, just let us know.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

On Re-Reading G.K. Chesterton's "Manalive"

“A wind sprang high in the west, like a wave of unreasonable happiness.”

This wind, appearing in the first line of G.K. Chesterton’s short novel, Manalive, is a boisterous wind, blowing hats to the tops of trees, blowing Innocent Smith over a high garden wall, and eventually blowing clean apart the na├»ve (even nasty) worldviews held by the assembled cast of characters.  Furthermore, it is a wind that brings life and joy and purpose, proving in the end that the happiness it carried was, in fact, not unreasonable at all.

Chesterton foreshadows this explosion of good and jolly sense early on when he tells us this “was the good wind that blows nobody harm.”  Yet it was resisted at first by the two young couples into whose moribund company Innocent Smith suddenly appears and then more forcefully by the experts in materialist philosophy who end up prosecuting the uniquely adventurous hero of the novel.

Along the way, Chesterton’s wit and wisdom are on wonderful display.  So too is his artistic temperament, his poetic skills, his chivalrous ideals, and his moral courage. Manalive is a classic of inventiveness and fun. However, amid the riot of revelry and the kaleidoscope of color, there are quite serious lessons being taught. The reader will find himself challenged by the novel’s exhortations about love and marriage, contentment, modern philosophy, common sense and appreciation, the rule of courtesy, Christian apologetics, the ingenious thrift of the Swiss Family Robinson, democracy, property, the overreach of science, socialism, Christianity as a “creed of wonder,” spiritual homesickness, patriotism, and more.  I recommend Manalive heartily. No surprise there...I’ve been doing so for 30 years.

And yes, one can one re-read a work often and still find fresh enjoyment and profit. C.S. Lewis, perhaps thinking of Chesterton (one of his literary influences), once wrote, “One must read a good book at least once every ten years.” I wholeheartedly agree.  In fact, there are a dozen or more of my favorite books (Randy Alcorn’s Heaven, Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Ring trilogy, Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story, C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows, history books by Walter Lord and Samuel Eliot Morrison, and yes, Chesterton’s Manalive) that I couldn’t possibly wait for ten years to get back to.

This time around, I had particular motivation to glean relevant truths from Manalive for it is one of a series of books I’m reading with friends this spring.  It’s a project meant to sharpen yet further our understanding and appreciation of key books by reading them together and then sharing with one another our responses.

And so with my latest reading of Manalive, I’m pleased to tell my partners in the project that I was moved on several points: 1) to dedicate myself anew to keeping spontaneity and romance, appreciation and gallantry in my marriage; 2) to review until I can clearly recall in detail Innocent Smith’s use of the pistol to illustrate the value of presuppositional apologetics; 3) to relish Chesterton’s unique skills in describing color and paradox and careful perceptions of everyday life; 4) to appreciate anew how strong a theme in Chesterton’s work is Christianity serving as man’s true and desired home; and 5) to better appreciate the gifts of everyday life, to see with more wondrous eyes the beauty of plain things.

Postscript 1: The first books in this spring reading project series were C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy; the next up (at least, in the original plan) is Francis Schaeffer’s The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century. The invitation to participate in this reading project, by the way, can be read here. And the resultant review of the space travel series can be found here.

Postscript 2: Reading often creates its own spin. Reading one book prompts you to read another that you hadn't planned on. That's certainly happening with this project. There were things in Out of the Silent Planet that caused me to go ahead and read a book given to me as a Christmas gift, Os Guinness' latest book dealing with Christian apologetics, Fool's Talk. I found it very good. And upon finishing Manalive, I found myself following up by re-reading one of G.K. Chesterton's best on apologetics, Orthodoxy. It too is terrific and the "combined weight" of reading these various titles dealing much with the same issues was of tremendous value.