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The Wingfeather Saga & Chronicles of Narina - Why Children's Books?

Wingfeather Saga and Chronicles of Narnia

War. Such a not kid-friendly topic. While boys (and some girls, cough, cough, me) may role-play mock battles and be fascinated with toy soldiers, tanks, swords, and guns, the subject's true horror and harsh reality are something we do not want kids to see. It’s something we ourselves don’t want to see. But it’s there, and it’s real whether we like it or not. A lot of things are there, whether we like them or not. 

But what does that harsh reality have to do with two children’s fantasy book series?

On the surface, these two book series, The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson and Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, are fun fantasy reads for your middle-grade (MG) readers. They feature magical worlds, fun characters, a nice dash of Biblical Allegory, and a good helping of humor aimed toward children. So why do I, as a young adult, still find substance and relatability in these books aimed at younger audiences?

Well, that, dear friends, is what we will look at today...


Mr. Tumnus and Lucy walking through snowy forest

Chronicles of Narnia was the first real MG fantasy series I ever read. And by read, I mean I read all seven books about twenty times in four weeks. I was OBSESSED. Sit me down, and I could tell you the whole story from beginning to end, with all the tie-ins and lore nuggets a little nerd would know. And when did I see the 2005 film as my first live-action fantasy movie? I was floored. This series single-handedly solidified my dream of becoming an author. 

There is something special about a bunch of kids falling into a fantasy world and having adventures, battling sea serpents, bringing down evil witches, walking trees, and talking horses. As a kid, I would toss open a small cabinet, crawl in, and just dream of going to a world like that. 

But what does this amazing adventure have to do with harsh realities? Well, let’s look at my favorite book of the series, The Horse and His Boy. Just this book alone has themes of slavery, suicide, political deception, child brides, and war. A person might say, “These themes are in a children’s book?!” And yes. They are. 

But here’s the kicker. I understood these things when I was younger, though the true harshness of the reality was veiled, left for adults to imply. When Shasta (the main character) snuck into the battle, while I thought it was cool, I felt the fear that he felt at that moment, with the realization that in a real fight, I would be out of my depth, too. In his introduction, I wanted him to run away more than anything because I knew he was unknowingly no better than a slave. 

And let’s not forget my favorite line from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: "Here is your brother," he (Aslan) said, "and – there is no need to talk to him about what is past."

The weight of this single line stays with me even after all these years, and even back then, I knew what it meant and wrestled with it at the age of twelve. 

Lewis may have written these books for children, but he didn’t water down these topics or shove them under the rug. He faced them head-on, sharing profound wisdom and the realness of the world in a way that children can understand and adults can relate to. 


cast of Wingfeather Saga Book One

While Chronicles of Narnia was a series I read at the “target age,” I was recommended The Wingfeather Saga at the elderly and most mature age of sixteen…at my high school graduation, of all places. Though I respected the person who recommended it, I couldn’t help but think, “Really? An MG book series? That’s the book series you think I’ll like?” But of course, it was a book. So I checked it out from the library, flipped open the first page, and was promptly flabbergasted and thoroughly gobsmacked. These characters were twelve and under in a world of creatures called thwamps and toothy cows, with the villain Gnag the Nameless, whose minions are the Fangs of Dang. The fashions are goofy, and the world is whacky. 

And yet…I loved it. 

Five years later, The Wingfeather Saga is still one of my top four favorite book series. Now that I think about it, all my top four are considered “children’s books.” Huh. Go figure. 

But why?

Well, other than the humor, while goofy is in good taste, and the worldbuilding (which is most of the humor, actually) being rich and chock full of fantastical wonders and fascinating histories, The Wingfeather Saga, like Chronicles of Narnia touches on the harsh realities of growing up, child labor, rebellion, sin, sacrifice, and, yes, death. And, like Chronicles of Narnia, it does not shy away from them. This series has more character death than any other MG series I’ve read. And it works. Why? Because harsh realities are portrayed in a way children can understand and learn from. 

I won’t spoil anything for those who haven’t read the series, but I will say this: I have only ever cried during three book series. Only three, with Lord of the Rings and How to Train Your Dragon being the other two. But unlike the silent tears of those ones, The Wingfeather Saga brought me to such an ugly cry that my mom burst into my room, worried someone in real life had died. A full, satisfying, heartfelt cry solidified this series in my top four if the rest of the books had not. 


 There is a reason why my top four favorite series of all time are “for children,” and it is not because they are written for kids. Kids aren’t stupid, and the author who understands that and weaves deep, rich, and sometimes hard truths into their works, making them meaningful to all ages, is a masterful writer indeed. 

If you are frustrated or tired of young adult and adult books, whether from content or messaging or perhaps are looking for a new read, I encourage you to pick up one of these books. Whether it’s Chronicles of Narnia’s take on war and Biblical Allegory or Wingfeather Saga’s look into the deaths of those close to you and the beauty of sacrifice, these good MG novels make abundantly clear that “children’s” does not mean childish.

Far from it. 

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1 Comment

Yes. Kids are way smarter than anyone gives them credit for. They can handle stuff like this.

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