Dear C.S. Lewis,

When I was small, chapter books tended to stay black and white.  I liked picture books with great detail; I thought they were the work of an artist which I strived to be, one day.  Without pictures, a book was just meaningless words on paper.  For me, it seemed crazy that any author would choose to not include pictures in a story.  I had read many chapter books and understood them well, but they were just the most boring things in the universe.  My parents and teachers kept saying,  “use your imagination.”  I knew that I had an imagination, for just about everyone does, but somehow I just couldn’t activate it.

I was assigned to read The Magician’s Nephew in third grade.  My teacher told my classmates and me to read chapters one through five.  That night, I started reading and for the first couple of pages I thought the same thing: boring.  But as I read further, the story came alive, and I had a crisp image of the row of houses; I could even see the painful emotion Diggory had on his grubby face.  It was as if those boring black and white pages turned into precious artworks in my mind.  I was sucked from the boring farm in Kansas to the magical land of Oz.

Having this new imagination, I thought about things differently.  A picture book does have wonderful and magical illustrations, but you can never really make them your own.  The pictures you see make you have a definite image of what the story looks like without having any freedom to imagine it yourself, which is really the fun part of reading.  On the other hand, a chapter book lets you make the story your own, it lets you imagine the story how you want to imagine it, and you illustrate the book in your mind.

At first, I thought that it was you who had painted the wonderful illustrations in my mind, but I soon realized that I was the artist.  People think that to be an artist, you must be good at drawing or painting but I soon found out that you don’t.  I realized that art is many things.  For example, this writing that I am typing right now is art.  When chapter books were black and white, I thought that I would never be an artist, for I could barely draw a stick figure.  Your book improved my drawings.  Instead of basing my drawings off of things that already existed, I created my own story to draw on the crisp, white piece of paper.  It taught me that I didn’t have to be a painter, I could be a sculptor, a writer, a poet, or any other type of artist.  Most of all, your book showed me that imagination is the key to literature.

Maxwell Brenneman