I had been anticipating this coloring book ever since I heard it was coming out this summer, and I willingly paid full price from a real bookstore. But upon closer examination I was disappointed.
Don’t get me wrong; Pauline Bayne’s artwork is as glorious as ever, but I wonder whether the people who designed the pages actually have read the Chronicles, since the few pictures that are highlighted and designed as coloring pages seem rather random, with graphics not matching quotes, and the quote selection seeming sometimes bizarre.
For example each book has one highlighted quote double page. The quote for Magician’s Nephew? “No great wisdom can be reached without sacrifice,” by Uncle Andrew — And it is illustrated with the golden fruit of the private garden with the bird whose stern gaze kept Digory from taking fruit for himself.
Of all the wonderful quotes in this book, this quip by Uncle Andrew is certainly one of the least memorable, and the art and the quote do not synch at all. Also in the Magician’s Nephew section, there is a repeated design as an endpiece before The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe begins. Here it is — what is wrong in this picture?
Yes, you spotted it right away — Uncle Andrew towers over Jadis. But another mystery is why this is the endpiece for Magician’s Nephew; why not Baynes wonderful picture of the children on Fledge, or the glorious tree planted to protect Narnia? A dapper Uncle Andrew and a tiny Jadis with Polly and Digory looking on in the background seems like an odd image to end the section for this tale. And speaking of odd endpieces, although the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe does follow the storyline, its endpiece is a pattern made up of repeated minotaurs with a broomstick and random flowers and leaves without stems connecting them. What could the editor be thinking? Not about the storyline, surely…!
Another odd quote page is the one for Horse and His Boy: “Do not dare not to dare,” by Aslan to Bree at their encounter at the Hermit’s refuge. It is placed before the horses and humans arrive at Tashban… and the graphics accompanying the quote is a pattern of compass roses, rabbits and a dwarf from the Stable in the Last Battle (!) miserably grabbing at some food he cannot appreciate.
Carrying on the chronological disconnect between quotes and graphics is Lucy’s quote in Prince Caspian: “I mustn’t think about it, I must just do it.” This spread is placed before the Pevensies discover the armory at Cair Paravel, and the background is a repetition of Silenus on his donkey, grapevines and a frolicking dwarf and a wild child crowned with grapes and vines. The strange endpiece for Prince Caspian is multiple Reepicheeps, multiple Caspians being attacked by the werewolf, and ships.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader has a glorious beginning, with Eustace, Lucy and Edmund falling into the painting, but it is followed by another out-of-place-quote-spread by Ramandu’s daughter (“You can’t know. You can only believe — or not.”). But I did enjoy the large models of the Dawn Treader and the lovely maps, and a double spread devoted to all sizes of dufflepuds jumping all over the place.
The Silver Chair fared pretty well, except you never get to see the Silver Chair; but I did love the endpiece of all the underlanders somersaulting with joy at being free. The Last Battle did not do so well chronologically, beginning with a quote from Emeth with repeated background graphics of the restored Friends of Narnia and the dear dogs getting ready for the Last Battle– whlle Emeth is conspicuously absent.
Strangely, this quote spread by Emeth occurs after Aslan unsuccessfully tries to reach out to the dwarves in the Stable, and the spread of the actual Last Battle surprisingly follows the dwarves-in-the-stable spread.
If you don’t mind this hodgepodge purporting to be an official Narnia coloring book, and can focus solely on the lovely maps and art of Pauline Baynes, you will enjoy coloring this book. Just don’t pay full price for it — as I did.