Picks and Pans Review: C.s. Lewis Letters to Children

updated 05/27/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/27/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

edited by Lyle W. Dorsett and Marjorie Lamp Mead

C.S. Lewis didn't just write wonderful books for children such as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe or The Horse and His Boy; he communicated with young people in the best ways. Part of that communication involved a voluminous correspondence. Dorsett and Mead, literary historians at Wheaton (Ill.) College, say Lewis thought a child's letter should never go unanswered, and to judge from the samples in this collection, both Lewis and his young interlocutors profited from the experience. One reason is Lewis' tone in dealing with children. He once recalled that "in a hotel dining-room I said, rather too loudly, 'I loathe prunes.' 'So do I,' came an unexpected six-year-old voice from another table. Sympathy was instantaneous. Neither of us thought it funny. We both knew that prunes are far too nasty to be funny. That is the proper meeting between man and child as independent personalities." Dorsett and Mead might have told us more about the children who received these letters. One girl, with whom Lewis corresponded for nearly 20 years, is identified only as "Joan." What ever became of her? Do her children read Lewis' books? Lewis' letters are nonetheless endearing, especially when urging his young readers to write fiction. "I began to write when I was about your age," he told one 8-year-old, "and it was the greatest fun. Do try." (Macmillan, $9.95)

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