I have two all time favorite children adventure stories I read between ages nine and ten. As a child I lived with my nose buried deep inside of a novel at all times, I could hardly pull the fresh smell of the print away from my face. Always a day dreamer, I would stare out of the windows at the scenic views the little private school in the hills of Chatsworth offered back then; watch little quail waddle by with their topknots bobbing on their heads; imagine the Chumash wandering the sandstone hills in hunt of wild boars, and enjoy the gorgeous blue skies filled with fluffy white clouds floating by. Inside books like C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe or Madeleine L'Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, I would jump further down into the rabbit hole and escape deeper into other universes where good battled evil, and it mattered.
What young imaginist wouldn’t want to be left alone with congenial siblings in a giant mansion; play hide and seek, and enjoy tussling with a nasty older brother who competed for attention? One day as the protagonist, Lucy, I would open that closet door and step into a permanent frozen winter-scape. Meet a kind old Faun and run back to try and explain to those older siblings who never believed you the world I had found, in a wardrobe!
When the professor who rents the children the accommodations due to the war, suggests that there may in fact be parallel universes, the oldest Pevensie children had never been more surprised that an adult, a very educated adult, would suggest that this could in fact be true.
Finally the children all go into the wardrobe and are lured further in by a tiny red robin. Meanwhile, the taken-an-evil-turn Edmund has been enchanted towards the dark side by the White Witch. He has tasted her magical Turkish Delight and drunk her sweet hot drink. Edmund is all in for ruling over his siblings, no matter the cost.
C.S. Lewis includes the trees in the forest, and every kind of ancient mythological Roman and Greek creature in the final battle the kids must face. While good conquers evil for now, and the children all become kings and queens, they wind up back in the original room outside of the magical wardrobe, back in their same young children’s bodies, their minds rife with adventure.
Next there is Meg. Good old Meg, who is a teenager, angry and awkward with her red hair and violet eyes, braces and acne. “It was a dark and stormy night”, the story begins. It was indeed! The soul of a galacial star, embodied in a human form, appears at the Murray’s home late in the middle of a stormy night. Mrs. Whatsit is eccentricity defined, dressed in all sorts of found clothing stolen from neighbor's clothing lines.
At school Megan is a misunderstood genius. Her parents both gifted and award-winning physicists. Her father has disappeared while studying the tesseract, a way to time travel by folding time in half. Megan has to defend her father’s honor as she insists that he is still alive, somewhere, although her and her three brothers have not heard hide nor hair of his whereabouts for years.
Along comes the hot, athletic and talented Calvin from school who takes a liking to Megan. And then there is her genius little brother Charles Wallace, a five-year-old savant who knows everything about everything; people can barely relate to what he says; he is so other-worldly.
Mrs. Whatsit and her cohort stars are battling The Black Thing, an ominous, menacing cloud that embodies all things evil and selfish. They need the two Murrays and Calvin to help them. On this team’s time and space travel adventure to save Meg’s father from It on the planet Camazotz, they stop over on distant planets along the way including Uriel, of ephemeral beauty, and the planet full of Aunt Beasts who cannot see but can cure all sorts of ailments.
Eventually the three children and their father battle The Black Thing and It, vanquish the land of Camazotz and its communist like way of making everyone do everything in the same way at the same time.
Both The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and A Wrinkle in Time are memorable books that resonated with me in mood and spirit as a child, as they still do now. Whenever I recommend a great adventure book that illuminates a child’s perception and spirits, I think of those two great adventure novels.