Professor McAlister launches new children’s book

Guilford College Professor Caroline McAlister launched a new book at a Guilford event hosted by the Learning Commons on Thursday, Dec. 5. A children’s book, it was titled “Finding Narnia: The Story of C.S. Lewis and His Brother Warnie.”

Written by Caroline McAlister and illustrated by Jessica Lanan, “Finding Narnia: The Story of C.S. Lewis and His Brother Warnie” is a children’s picture book biography based on two brothers whose vivid imaginations led to the creation of Narnia, a magical world.

McAlister opened the event by pointing out the significance of the last page. Showing the map of Ireland, the page represents the main character traveling from Ireland to England as he attends boarding school.

She then proceeded to read, stopping at the end of each page to break down the content to the audience.

The main characters of her book were Jack and Warnie, the older brother. As the brothers were growing up, they witnessed construction men working on the Titanic.

“Jack and Warnie weren’t just brothers,” said McAlister. “They were best friends. But they were very different. From the beginning, it was Jack who dreamed up stories of other worlds.” 

The two brothers spent their time differently. Jack was depicted as a character that likes to look through the window of his imagination by reading books. Warnie, on the other hand, liked to pretend to be an Indian Raja and draw maps of railways with trains that crisscross.

“Warnie liked to sit in the wide picture window of their new house and watch the busy world of the Belfast shipyards,” McAlister continued. “Jack preferred to look through the window of his imagination. He browsed the bookshelfs that lined the walls.”

The book was set in the time of the British empire, so Jack pretended to be a brave knight and the two enjoyed pretending to be in a castle under attack.

“Once in a while, Warnie’s raja would visit Jack’s island and help the knight defend the castle,” said McAlister, continuing the plot.

As the audience could tell from McAlister’s descriptions, the book was filled with imagination.

Upon closing the book, she had a few words of encouragement for students who are interested in writing children’s books.

“When I was a little kid, I thought that authors sat alone in their attics and did everything alone,” said McAlister. “I want to show you that this book is a team effort, and it takes a lot of people to write a book.”

McAlister showed a lengthy list of all the people who were involved in the process of producing “Finding Narnia.” She also explained the writing process, which began with her doing library research into the work of C.S. Lewis.

“His writings are available, but they are a little bit tedious I gotta warn you,” said McAlister. “I do not recommend them.”

Following some laughs from the audience, McAlister moved on to discuss the lives of the main characters from her book.

Warnie retired from the army and Jack went on to become a teacher at Oxford. Both brothers moved in together to spend the rest of their lives doing the work that they love.

McAlister ended her book launch by giving her audience some thoughtful advice.

“Start where you are and go for it,” said McAlister. “There are many opportunities out there for writers and illustrators.”

McAlister’s book launch event intrigued not only students, but even faculty who came by to listen. Melissa Daniel, the director of the Learning Commons, was excited that McAlister presented.

“I was very gratified to see so many community members celebrating Caroline’s work,” said Daniel. “She is a wonderful instructor and a gifted scholar whose work enriches the experiences of students. I especially enjoy this book because it adds to children’s understanding of the world of Narnia.”