Posted by: montclairlibrary | October 1, 2015

Alice’s birthday

Alice in Wonderland book photo by Starry Raston via Flickr

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the 1865 publication of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

According to Stephanie Lovett, president of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America, the two Alice novels are “likely the most frequently quoted works of fiction in the English-speaking world, standing alongside only Shakespeare in frequency of citation.” (Quote from this New York Times article.)

Given the rich and multi-layered nature of Carroll’s books, it’s no surprise that they’ve generated many editions, translations (into more than 170 languages, plus an all-emoji translation) and off-shoots.

Even as early as 1895, writers were mining Carroll’s work for sequels and parodies like Anna M. Richards’ “A New Alice in the Old Wonderland” (1895) and “Alice in Blunderland: An Iridescent Dream” (1907), “a parody by American humourist John Kendrick Bangs making fun of big business and big government.” (Wikipedia)

Here are some books from the Montclair collection (and beyond) that illustrate, abridge, build-on or in some cases totally change Carroll’s characters and settings:

For kids:
Alice in Wonderland: A Colors Primer by Jennifer Adams (J BOARD ADAMS) – Even babies can enjoy Alice, as the many peculiar characters in Carroll’s novel, such as the red Queen of Hearts and the time-conscious White Rabbit, lend themselves to a child’s introduction to colors.

Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland retold by Jon Scieszka (J PICBK SCIESZKA) – You pretty much can’t go wrong with Jon Scieszka (The Stinky Cheese Man, Time Warp Trio series, etc.) and illustrator Mary Blair (the designer behind the iconic look of many Disney movies and the Small World ride, among other things). This pretty picture book streamlines the story to 64 pages for 3-5-year-olds. (For grades 3-6, try one of these longer books that use Carroll’s words with new illustrations by
Helen Oxenbury or Lisbeth Zwerger.)

Jabberwocky: The Classic Poem from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There by Chistopher Myers (J 821.8 CARROLL) (not at Montclair) – “This imaginative interpretation of Carroll’s classic nonsense poem takes it out of the pages of Through the Looking Glass, into a contemporary urban setting, and onto the basketball court.” (Booklist)

Other children’s books, like the Underland Chronicles series by Suzanne Collins and Coraline by Neil Gaiman, owe a lot to Alice.

“Thinking one day about Alice in Wonderland, Suzanne Collins was struck by how pastoral the setting must seem to kids who, like her own kids, lived in urban surroundings. In New York City, you’re much more likely to fall down a manhole into the sewer than a rabbit hole, and if you do, you’re not going to find a tea party. What might you find? The answer to this question can be found in Collin’s first novel…Like Alice, Gregor takes a very long fall beneath his world and finds another strange place.”
— from the About the Author section of Gregor the Overlander

For teens:
Splintered by A.G. Howard (YA FIC HOWARD) (not at Montclair) – A descendant of the inspiration for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, sixteen-year-old Alyssa Gardner fears she is mentally ill like her mother until she finds that Wonderland is real and, if she passes a series of tests to fix Alice’s mistakes, she may save her family from their curse.

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor (J FIC BEDDOR) (not at Montclair) – When she is cast out of Wonderland by her evil aunt Redd, young Alyss Heart finds herself living in Victorian Oxford as Alice Liddell and struggles to keep memories of her kingdom intact until she can return and claim her rightful throne.

For adults:
After Alice by Gregory McGuire (of Wicked fame) (just released – copy on order for Montclair) – A tale inspired by Lewis Carroll’s beloved classic follows the experiences of Alice’s friend, Ada, who, upon tumbling down the same rabbit hole, embarks on an odyssey to find and reclaim her friend from a surreal world.

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin (FIC BENJAMIN) – This novel imagines Alice Liddell in her twilight years, looking back on a remarkable life. From a pampered childhood in Oxford to difficult years as a widowed mother, Alice examines how she became who she is–and how she became immortalized as Alice in Wonderland.

Photo: Starry Raston via Flickr / Creative Commons


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