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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

Once Upon A Wardrobe

ISBN: 0785251723

Publisher: HarperMuse

Publication Date: 10/19/2021

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: 5 Stars ++

From Patti Callahan, the bestselling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis, comes another enchanting story that pulls back the curtain on the early life of C. S. Lewis.

“Where did Narnia come from?”

The answer will change everything.

Megs Devonshire is brilliant with numbers and equations, on a scholarship at Oxford, and dreams of solving the greatest mysteries of physics.

She prefers the dependability of facts—except for one: the younger brother she loves with all her heart doesn’t have long to live. When George becomes captivated by a copy of a brand-new book called The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and begs her to find out where Narnia came from, there’s no way she can refuse.

Despite her timidity about approaching the famous author, Megs soon finds herself taking tea with the Oxford don and his own brother, imploring them for answers. What she receives instead are more stories . . . stories of Jack Lewis’s life, which she takes home to George.

Why won’t Mr. Lewis just tell her plainly what George wants to know? The answer will reveal to Meg many truths that science and math cannot, and the gift she thought she was giving to her brother—the story behind Narnia—turns out to be his gift to her, instead: hope.

My Review

Enchanting, magical, and heart-warming!

From the master storyteller, Author Patti Callahan returns following her popular historical fiction titles: Surviving Savannah and Becoming Mrs. Lewis with another enchanting and captivating "story behind the stories"—ONCE UPON A WARDROBE and the early life of C.S. Lewis and our favorite childhood stories of Narnia.

Callahan has definitely mastered the art of storytelling!

EXQUISITE! A captivating and powerful story about the transformative power of stories, assured to warm your heart.

The author magically transports readers to the early 1950s winter in Worcestershire, England, where we meet a lovely close-knit family.

It is December, and George Devonshire, eight years old, the youngest member of the family, suffers from a congenital heart condition. He is an old soul and wise beyond his years. Readers will fall in love with this kind and intuitive little boy. He loves to read, and this helps pass his time while he is at home.

His favorite, of course, is the book just published, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by Author C. S. Lewis. He has always thought this lion on the cover might hold the key to all he desires to know. He knows there is no secret back to the wardrobe, the snowy forest, the lampost, and the adventures, but he can sit inside a wardrobe and take himself to that imaginary world.

This famous Author, C.S. Lewis, must know more about the storybook he has written and the stories of Narnia. There are also other books his aunt dropped off for him called The Screwtape Letters and The Chronicles of Narnia, and more.

Where did Narnia come from? George must know.

He decides to ask his older sister, Megs. After all, she is brilliant, and the professor who wrote about this magical place is in Oxford, England, where Megs attends school. She will help him find out more about where Narnia came from.

Margaret Louise Devonshire (Megs), who attends university, age seventeen, loves numbers and equations and desires to solve the greatest mysteries of physics.

She loves George and the little stone cottage in the quaint village where they reside with their Mum and Dad. She must remain cheerful around George, even though she fears how much longer he has left. His mother is concerned he is spending too much time with his dreaming and hiding in his books. George finally convinces his family, this is not just a children's book.

Meg knows of author C. S. Lewis, but how can she just ask him a question like this for her younger brother? He teaches at Magdalen, and she is at Somerville, but her little brother is insistent that it is still Oxford University.

She would do anything for her little brother. She begins reading the story to George and she begins to understand how much this means to her brother. She will help her brother find the answers he is searching for.

In the falling snow, Megs follows C.S. Lewis to his house, The Kilns. Mr. Lewis invites her in and she begins visiting him and his brother Warnie and listens to his stories by the fire. He tells her about his childhood but never really gives her the answer. He insists that she go home and write down the stories and read them to George. George is enamored with the stories. She finds herself looking forward to returning.

Megs starts out every session with George with "Once Upon a Wardrobe" and he cannot get enough. George also has a special wish for Christmas. Can Megs help make his wish come true?

During this time, as she is walking in the snow to meet up with C.S. Lewis, she meets a new friend, Padraig Cavender, another Oxford student. (loved him). They seem to develop a bond, and he may be just the one to help Megs and George experience a Christmas miracle with an adventure to Ireland to a special place he had read about in the story.

A courageous and brave boy, he understood more about life than most adults. All the while, Megs thought she was helping George; however, in turn, she is changed by learning some important life lessons about heart, love, hope, and faith.

What a poignant, compelling, and inspiring story! One of my favorites. No one could have written this story, but Patti Callahan (she was born to write). She has a rare talent for capturing the essence of her characters, setting, time, and place like no one else.

Her fans have heard how much she loved C.S. Lewis' writings, and her passion shines throughout. A beautiful, bittersweet love story that will resonate while making you cry and smile.

Not only will you fall in love with the unselfish giving characters, the prose, the idyllic winter England setting, but you will also experience a heartfelt gift to treasure through the holiday season.

Timely, emotional, and full of heart, readers will remember these characters and this captivating journey long after the book ends. A classic for all ages—Narnia and C.S. Lewis fans will be raving! Joy and C.S. Lewis would be proud.

"There is a light, a bright lantern light where all stories begin and end."

ONCE UPON A WARDROBE is a compelling must-read for the fall and holiday season! One of the author's best! Highly recommend.

“Each and every one of us is born with our own stories and we must decide how to tell them.” —Patti Callahan, Once Upon a Wardrobe

A special thank you to #NetGalley #HarperMuse for an advanced reading copy! Also pre-ordered the audiobook narrated by Fiona Hardingham.

Blog Review:


My Rating: 5 Stars ❄❄❄❄❄

Pub Date: 10/19/21

By: HarperMuse


"I advise you to read this book, then wait for a while and then read it again for while it may not be Narnia, there is magic in it and that deeply moved me.” —Douglas Gresham, C. S. Lewis’s stepson

“Callahan (Becoming Mrs. Lewis) once again visits the life and works of C. S. Lewis in this enlightening novel of logic and imagination, faith, and reason…this enchanting novel of faith and hope is a must-read for fans of C. S. Lewis. Readers will be eager to return to the world of “The Chronicles of Narnia” with new insights." Library Journal (Starred Review)

"Indie Next Great Reads for Nov 2021 ”

—American Booksellers Association

"10 must-read Southern books this fall."

—Atlanta Journal

"Fall releases offer 'can't miss' titles"

—The Augusta Chronicle

Best New Books of October 2021"


"Fall/Winter Reading List 2021-22"

—Deep South Magazine

“10 Most Anticipated Historical Fiction of Fall 2021”


“Best New Books for this Fall"

—Country Living

"Selected as Buzz Book of Fall 2021"

Exquisitely heartfelt, Once Upon a Wardrobe is a love letter to the magic of stories. I call it 'the Callahan effect' — from the first page to the last, Patti Callahan's wise and beautiful prose draws you in and doesn’t let you go."

—Sarah Addison Allen, New York Times bestselling author of First Frost and Lost Lake

“Once Upon a Wardrobe is a poignant meditation on the lengths we will go to for our loved ones as well as a fascinating glimpse into the early life of C.S. Lewis. Patti Callahan’s beautiful, life-affirming novel is a reminder that literature lives inside us, and that when we read someone else’s story, we understand so much more about our own. A gorgeous, compelling book."

—Janet Skeslien Charles, award-winning author of The Paris Library

“In this powerful, enchanting tale for all ages, readers uncover the inspiration for Lewis' famous books, while at the same time discovering the way in which stories —and myths—weave through our existences, subtly transforming us in immeasurable ways. Stunning.”

—Marie Benedict, New York Times bestselling author of The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

“Callahan (Becoming Mrs. Lewis) mines the life and work of C.S. Lewis in this enjoyable exploration of the power of imagination to see one through difficult times…the heartfelt characters will win over sentimental readers. Callahan’s fans will love this.”

—Publishers Weekly

“Once Upon a Wardrobe is a tender, enchanting tribute to the power of story and the myriad ways it can both break and heal our hearts. It is the story of a dying boy and a loving sister and the path a treasured story takes from one heart to the other. Perfect and timely and beautiful and poignant, it is everything the world needs right now."

— Ariel Lawhon, New York Times bestselling author of I Was Anastasia and Codename Helene

"Enchanting and luminous, filled with the love of family, this is a story for anyone whose life has ever been changed by a book. Megs and George will stretch your heart, perhaps fracture it, then shine light through the cracks and send your spirit soaring. It is impossible not to be swept away by Patti Callahan’s exploration of what lies beneath C.S. Lewis’s beloved land of Narnia. This is storytelling at its finest, deepest, and most profound. A triumph."

—Lisa Wingate, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours and The Book of Lost Friends

“I so loved this story. Every page is filled with magic and wonder, with insight and wisdom. I am in awe of Patti Callahan’s talent." —Debbie Macomber #1 New York Times bestselling author

“Beautiful, tender and poignant, ONCE UPON A WARDROBE is a rare treasure. Written with elegant prose, warmth, and a clear passion for her subject, Patti Callahan has crafted a love letter to beloved Narnia, and to the power of story to inspire, connect and heal. Truly magical."

—Hazel Gaynor, New York Times and international bestselling author of When We Were Young and Brave.

“With elegant prose, Callahan invites the reader to intuit creativity’s source. Once Upon a Wardrobe is a captivating story for all ages; a standalone book combining fact, and fantasy, and its peek behind the curtain crafting is an important adjunct to C. S. Lewis’s Narnia chronicles." — New York Journal of Books

“This is a heartwarming tale about the transformative power of books, with engaging and detailed descriptions. George’s earnestness and imaginative nature uplift his family and will charm any reader who enjoys looking at the stories behind our favorite childhood stories."


Q&A with the Author

Q. C. S. Lewis is a monumental figure in the literary canon and modern Christianity, and many find him an interesting subject of study. What is it about C. S. Lewis, that inspired your interest in his life and influence?

PATTI: For me, it was not an academic but a personal interest that drew me to C. S. Lewis’ books. As a young child, I fell through the wardrobe door of Narnia, and for me, C. S. Lewis is endlessly fascinating. He has written everything from poetry to non-fiction to essays to novels to fantasy. Once an atheist who became an influential Christian apologist, his words cut straight to the marrow of our lives. His books are living things, changing and often becoming what we most need at different times in our lives. The poet and philosopher John O’Donohue once wrote, “A book is a path of words which take the heart in new directions,” and that is exactly what Lewis does for me, and for most of us.

Q. In both Once Upon a Wardrobe and Becoming Mrs. Lewis you’ve written fiction about real, historical people. How do you maintain the delicate balance between being true to the history and legacy of the real person and crafting a compelling story?

PATTI: Oh, the balance is tricky, a tightrope I can fall off if I am not careful! I believe that the bones of the story, which are the facts, must be weighty and solid. A compelling novel must be built around those factual bones. What makes most stories compelling is the drive of the emotional journey of our character, and that is where the fictional aspect comes into play. We must, as historical fiction novelists on this side of their life, do our best to discover not only the facts but also the emotional truth of their lives. I keep my ears and eyes and heart open to find the nuggets of their life that show us who they were, what they cared about and then make that come to life on the page.

Q. The characters in Once Upon a Wardrobe find so much value in the fictional world of Narnia that Lewis created. How have the Chronicles of Narnia affected your life?

PATTI: I have been enchanted by Narnia since my memory begins. I have read it to my children and have sat with them as we all cry through the movie The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It’s hard to pin-point how it has affected my life in a logical or pointed way because I think that Narnia, its characters, and its themes affect the heart and the unconscious just as much as the adventure of the story thrills us.

That’s the thing with stories like this – they work in different ways than logic and lists, they are their own kind of magic, and that is what I hoped to portray in this novel. Narnia made me first an immersive reader and then made me want to be a writer. Narnia points to the ideas buried deep inside all of us that there is something greater than we can see with our eyes, that we are being led home, and that great love conquers all.

Q. What made you write this story? Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

PATTI: Narnia was and is a powerful part of my life, and yet I’ve never felt the need to dissect it like a specimen on a laboratory slide or take it apart to find its inner workings, but about a year ago I found myself wanting to convey the power of its mythology in our lives. I felt a story stirring that might reveal exactly what C. S. Lewis meant when he said “Sometimes fairy stories may say best what needs to be said.’ As I considered The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe a young boy named George Devonshire and his sister, Megs visited my imagination. George asks his sister to find the answer to his most pressing question, “Where did Narnia come from?”

Part of what I set out to show that an author’s life (and reading) might inform a story in some ways, and yet there are also large swaths of story-source that are altogether imaginative, mysterious, and transcendent. I’m fascinated by how Narnia transforms us; how the power of story can’t be fully be explained no matter how much we want to quantify and list its logical associations. My editor at Harper Muse, Amanda Bostic, once said to me, “I’ve always believed that if we can find our way to Narnia, we can find our way home.” And that, exactly that, is the truth I hope permeates this novel.

Q. Which book is your favorite in the Chronicles of Narnia series, and why?

PATTI: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. And why? Oh, that is exactly what I wanted to show in Once Upon a Wardrobe. Why? That is only answered for me in a story about a story. There is no logical or succinct way to say why this book, of all the books in the world, sneaks its way into the hearts and minds of so many of us. But I can at least try to answer, which is the inspiration and origin of Once Upon a Wardrobe.

Parade Magazine:

"Patti Callahan's Once Upon A Wardrobe Cover Reveal Will Give You C.S. Lewis Nostalgia in the Best Way"

About the Author

Patti Callahan Henry is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of sixteen novels and podcast host. She is the recipient of The Christy Award — A 2019 Winner “Book of the Year”; The Harper Lee Distinguished Writer of the Year for 2020 and the Alabama Library Association Book of the Year for 2019. She is the co-host and co-creator of the popular weekly online Friends and Fiction live web show and podcast. A full-time author and mother of three children, she now resides in both Mountain Brook, Alabama, and Bluffton, South Carolina with her husband. Website







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