In this month's Inspirations, Alana Washington tells Anita Loughrey how she is inspired by C.S. Lewis.


The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was first published in 1950 and was the second in C.S LewisThe Chronicles of Narnia series – but it was over 30 years later in the late 80’s when it found its moment for me and left a lasting impression. 

What hooked me in? Well, for a start, that title! So memorable, so intriguing, so long! What’s so special about a wardrobe? I wondered. Well…everything it turned out. I fell in love with Narnia. Talking animals, having tea and a sugar topped cake in a cosy cave with Mr Tumnus. The big themes of good versus evil - and the smaller acts of friendship and bravery that made you think just maybe it could be you in the story. Ultimately the four children were having an incredible adventure – while doing the right thing, well, except Edmund, (his easy betrayal of Lucy right at the beginning marked his card early on).

At my school, I remember nobody ever wanted to be Edmund when we played Narnia… the White Witch was a bit more tempting because of the outfit potential. As a side note – I never wanted to be Susan either, she was always suggesting they turn back and go home when things looked a bit bleak. Come on, Susan! The truth is, Aslan was my favourite, mainly because he was a lion and I’m a Leo. We also have a lot of the same letters in our names. As a child this is the sort of sound reasoning that goes unquestioned by your real friends. Aslan was made even more appealing to me when Mr Beaver told Susan, ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good’. Very grown up! 

Mr Tumnus, and Mr and Mrs Beaver

I clearly wasn’t alone in my fascination with this book. It seemed like everyone at the time was reading it, or acting it out in the playground, or debating which character they would be (who didn’t have a soft spot for Mr and Mrs Beaver?). I’m sure none of us had ever even read a book where the youngest child, (Lucy) was the most central to the story. It wasn’t her age or confidence that mattered, it was her character – an empowering message. Yes, Barbies were out that year because I wanted what every child in my class wanted… a wardrobe into Narnia. Evacuated to a creaky old mansion, and then the adventure of a lifetime fell in their laps.

Of course, we can’t all expect such a dramatic destiny. My summer holidays were spent at my Granny’s old Victorian house in Northern Ireland. We were always looking for a mystery in that house. The bedrooms had the perfect type of free-standing wooden wardrobes with a key in the lock and giant hinges. My sisters and I checked every single one that summer… just in case. Imagine – one minute you’re playing hide and seek, and the next you’re in a snow-covered world talking to a fawn. I suspected my adventure was waiting patiently for me in an unassuming cupboard. Alas, like all the best things in life, adventures tend to turn up when you’ve stopped looking. Surely the appeal of that wardrobe was the proximity to magic – a parallel world only an outstretched arm away! Who hasn’t given the wall between platforms nine and ten a subtle shove? These whispers of ‘old magic’ captured my heart back then, and never really let it go. I still remember the surprise and excitement, as a young reader, when Father Christmas appeared to the children after a bleak period. Nothing could have felt like a more powerful symbol of hope at that point.

And Lucy felt running through her that deep shiver of gladness which you only get if you are being solemn and still.
From The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis

I loved that description, just the opposite of the usual descriptions of feeling glad – and much truer.

This was also the very first book I’d read where another world existed with its own sense of time. When Lucy went in the wardrobe, she returned to find no time had passed, this was mind bending back then. After living long lives in Narnia, the children return to the childhoods they had left – as if the world simply stood still – a device that has influenced my writing (and my reading tastes). I think part of this story’s enduring appeal is C.S. Lewis’ cosy and accessible narration style. Lewis tells the story as if he is round a campfire, with all the asides and comments that a parent might say during a bedtime story. 

Peter’s voice sounded tired and pale in the darkness (I hope you know what I mean by a voice sounding pale).
From The Lion, The Witch and The WardrobeC.S. Lewis

He didn’t get bogged down with lengthy explanations about why the world was there in the wardrobe. You just accepted it and went straight into the story. It’s a surprisingly short book (as books generally were when I was younger) I remember one summer devouring 40-odd slimline Sweet Valley High books. Imagine trying to do that nowadays! 

Years later, during my first year as a primary school teacher, I bought my Year 1 class the beautifully illustrated picture book version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to read in the weeks leading up to Christmas. At the end of every day, you could hear a pin drop once that book came out. They were transported (as I had been) by the wardrobe into Narnia. (It was probably a bit mature for my audience, but well…I was new). By the end, so many parents told me they’d had to buy a copy because their child wouldn’t stop talking about it. Like all children, I loved Christmas. It still feels like believing in something inherently good. That 16-year-old copy is now part of my Christmas book box at home. Stories gathered over the years that we get out every December to re-read and enjoy with our girls. Even as they get older, these stories are special and full of memories. It’s partly why I wanted to write a Christmas book. I love the idea of a story holding a place in time that you can come back to visit every year. It has been a wish fulfilled to put my own book, A Family Christmas in the box last year. 

I grew up in a house where DIY manuals stood next to books on crystals, numerology, and Feng Shui. My mum was open to the mysteries of the world alongside being a practical single parent with a healthy collection of saws and hammers. I never doubted mystery and magic were part of life, in some form or another, and would be part of mine. I know the books I’ve loved have played a huge part in this. If we are lucky, a book comes along at the right time and changes how we see things. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was just such a book for me. On reading it again recently, I realised there were simple lessons to be learned that still apply today. Never eat Turkish Delight. Lies will reveal themselves. Loyalty matters (Edmund!). Lions are natural kings and when Christmas finally comes it is always a reason to be happy… and hopeful.


Alana Washington lives with her husband, two daughters and two cats in outer London. She is a primary school teacher specialising in art. Her first picture book Finney’s Story was published by UCLan Publishing in March 2021 and her latest picture book, A Family Christmas, came out in October 2022. She loves small town charm, magic, Murder She Wrote… and Christmas (of course!)


Anita writes fiction, non-fiction and teacher resources. She has 100+ books published by a multitude of publishers both in the UK and internationally. She has two regular slots in the national writing magazine Writers’ Forum - one of writing for children, the other on author’s research secrets. Find out more about Anita and her books on her website . Follow her blog, Twitter and Instagram @anitaloughrey.


  1. Alana you are hilarious. I loved meeting you this way. :)

    1. Thank you Nissa, You’re very kind.


We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.