I just saw this wonderful review on explore-blog over at Tumblr: it was written by Lewis in 1937, when “The Hobbit” was first published. Of course, Lewis and Tolkien were friends, so I guess he could be said to have been biased, but it’s a wonderfully insightful review anyway. And he was certainly right about it becoming a classic! His comments on “Alice In Wonderland” are spot on as well.
The publishers claim that The Hobbit, though very unlike Alice [in Wonderland], resembles it in being the work of a professor at play. A more important truth is that both belong to a very small class of books which have nothing in common save that each admits us to a world of its own—a world that seems to have been going on long before we stumbled into it but which, once found by the right reader, becomes indispensable to him.
For it must be understood that this is a children’s book only in the sense that the first of many readings can be undertaken in the nursery. Alice is read gravely by children and with laughter by grown ups; The Hobbit, on the other hand, will be funnier to its youngest readers, and only years later, at a tenth or a twentieth reading, will they begin to realise what deft scholarship and profound reflection have gone to make everything in it so ripe, so friendly, and in its own way so true. Prediction is dangerous: but The Hobbit may well prove a classic.
Though I personally prefer Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings”, I have a lot of love for “The Hobbit” too. I have very fond memories of my dad reading it to me and my sister a long time ago, and yes, that is probably one of the origins of my enduring love of the fantasy genre.