I'm currently reading A.S. Byatt's new novel, The Children's Book. It's based on the life of E. Nesbit (not, as some have claimed -- presumably out of ignorance -- Beatrix Potter), who was one of the primary influences on C.S. Lewis' Narnia books. Nesbit invented the sort of children's story where several siblings embark on a series of adventures (magical or not) free of adult interference. Edward Eager's children's novels (Half Magic, Magic by the Lake, etc.) were patterned after such Nesbit classics as Five Children and It and The Phoenix and the Carpet, books that Lewis read as a child and adored. The humor in the Chronicles, and particularly the ever-changing relationships among the Pevensie children, owe a lot to Nesbit.
I wrote a long passage about Nesbit's style and its influence on Lewis, ultimately cut from The Magician's Book, but posted here. It's curious that the two of the writers who affected Lewis most profoundly, Nesbit and William Morris, were both socialists, and irreligious. Nesbit was a co-founder of the utopian Fabian movement and had an open marriage with her first husband, raising his mistress's children as her own. I've only just begun The Children's Book, but so far it depicts the social and creative climate at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, a time that produced some of the best children's fiction ever. The characters are deeply interested in fairy tales and folklore, as well as handcrafts and communalism, all aspects of Morris' call for a return to pre-modern ways of life. (Morris felt that a piece of pottery on which you could see the potter's thumbprint was infinitely more beautiful than the perfect china products of industrial manufacturing -- an eccentric opinion at the time, but fairly common now.) Anyone fond of the children's fiction of that time will likely find The Children's Book fascinating.