Jackson and I have just spent the most marvelous few weeks with C.S. Lewis!
No, we didn’t get to visit Oxford, England…and we didn’t get to go to Narnia. (Where is that wardrobe when you need it?) But we did get to read YWAM’s wonderful C.S. Lewis: Master Storyteller from their CHRISTIAN HEROES: THEN AND NOW series. In addition, we’ve used the accompanying CHRISTIAN HEROES: THEN AND NOW – Unit Study Curriculum Guide C.S. Lewis along with our reading. Both of these items were provided to us for the purposes of review from YWAM Publishing. We received a softcover copy of the biography, and a CD of the unit study.
C.S. Lewis: Master Storyteller, by Janet and Geoff Benge, is a biography for children (ages 10 and up). In the form of a chapter book, it details the life of the Christian apologist, Oxford professor, and novelist who has impacted so many with his works and words. Born in Ireland in 1898, Lewis (or Jack, as he informed his family he was to be addressed) and his brother and best friend Warren were the children of a devoted mother and a rather difficult, and often distracted father. Deeply imaginative from the very beginning, Jack began writing from an early age, as did Warren. They created imaginary worlds and filled them with interesting characters whose adventures delighted both brothers.
Sadly, the boys’ mother Flora passed away in 1908, and the loving world she shaped around them was shattered. And then began Jack’s (and Warren’s) challenges. In the coming years, the two would experience:
- terrible experiences in British boarding schools
- fighting in World War I
- higher education at a military college or Oxford
- the loss of dear friends
- personal relationships that created enormous challenges
Jack’s life also took some unusual turns. He cared for the mother and the sister of his friend Paddy, who’d been killed in WWI. At Oxford, where he became a professor, he became close friends with J.R.R. Tolkien, who was instrumental in leading Jack to Christ. And, he became a published and influential writer and speaker.
Fans of Lewis probably know him best for his breathtakingly wonderful children’s stories, The Chronicles of Narnia. But his nonfiction works are important works as well, still significant in Christendom today. C.S. Lewis: Master Storyteller carries the reader all the way through Jack’s life from its beginning to its end in 1963, with all its joys and its sufferings.
About the unit study
CHRISTIAN HEROES: THEN AND NOW – Unit Study Curriculum Guide C.S. Lewis is an excellent adjunct for anyone who’d like to use C.S. Lewis: Master Storyteller as a jumping-off point to further study in many subjects. Since I’ve homeschooled, I have loved unit studies for the way they open the world to the student and the teacher. This very complete unit study takes the life of Lewis and places it in the context of the world and of history, along with some beautifully creative activities for your student. With this CD, which runs on both Windows and Mac computers, you and your student can:
- Study the United Kingdom and the places that were important to Jack
- Memorize Scripture verses that might have been meaningful to Lewis
- Create art, dioramas, or displays
- Select from a number of categories to approach a study (Biblical character, creative writing, essays, vocabulary, history, social studies, etc.)
- And much more than this!
How we used the book and the unit study
Because Lewis’ works have meant so much to our family, we chose to use C.S. Lewis: Master Storyteller as a read-aloud. We read a chapter most days over the course of about 5 weeks (and sometimes, more than one chapter). The book is well-arranged and covers many of the important events of Jack’s life. His salvation story is interesting, and the way God shaped his life as one that was so influential to others is fascinating.
However, Jack’s life was full of many sorrows and not a small amount of suffering. Using C.S. Lewis: Master Storyteller as a read-aloud provided excellent opportunities for discussion about suffering, God’s purposes in it, and how Jack was so faithful in so many things, despite the difficulties of his life. We also really enjoyed reading about his relationship with his brother Warren, who was such a devoted friend to him (and vice versa!).
With the unit study, we explored the United Kingdom and the places that were important to Jack. We studied famous quotes attributed to him. My son did some creative writing about the author, and is writing a final essay on Jack’s life and work. We even did some art and painting in the context of Narnia!
Here’s what my son had to say about our experiences: “It was a good book. And it was awesome hearing about the things in his life that inspired him to do his work (aka his books). His work is amazing.” Honestly, I can say that as a family, Lewis’ works have probably meant more to us than any other author. The Narnia books are so magical and so truly unlike any other books. It was really inspiring for us to learn more about this great man and how God used the suffering Jack endured to create not only an incredible life, but outstanding works of both fiction and nonfiction.
I only have one cautionary note, which comes under the heading of “spoilers!” Chapter 13, “Chronicling Narnia,” has a brief description of the contents of each of the 7 books in the series. If you or your children haven’t read all of them, be sure to read them before you read Chapter 13. You don’t want to know the secrets of these wonderful books before you read and enter Narnia!
We can most happily recommend this book and the unit study that goes with it! YWAM’s Lewis biography presents the events of his life in both a sensitive and youth-appropriate manner. The activities in the unit study will challenge and interest the student, and captivate their interest. We loved it and we think you will too!
You may purchase C.S. Lewis: Master Storyteller and CHRISTIAN HEROES: THEN AND NOW – Unit Study Curriculum Guide C.S. Lewis at YWAM Publishing. And, you’ll be happy to know that YWAM has published many other biographies of both historical figures and Christian missionaries. Crew members reviewed a variety of these biographies and unit studies, so be sure to click on the link below to see what else YWAM has for your family and homeschool!
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Enjoy…and happy reading! –Wren