”There was nothing so very remarkable in that; nor did Alice think it so very much out of the way to hear the Rabbit say to itself, ‘Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!’ (when she thought it over afterwards, it occurred to her that she ought to have wondered at this, but at the time it all seemed quite natural); but when the Rabbit actually took a watch out of its waistcoat-pocket, and looked at it, and then hurried on, Alice started to her feet, for it flashed across her mind that she had never before seen a rabbit with either waistcoat-pocket, or a watch to take out of it, and burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it, and fortunately was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge.” Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Alice’s tumble down the rabbit hole is just the very beginning of many curious and extraordinary adventures in Wonderland - growing, shrinking, growing again, shrinking again, swimming in a pool of one’s own tears along with several curious creatures who have fallen in, a disappearing cat that leaves behind just its grin, a game of crochet with a very disagreeable Queen, live hedgehogs for croquet balls, flamingoes for mallets and doubled-up soldiers for arches. And of course, a tea party with a Mad Hatter, a March Hare and a very sleepy Dormouse.
Recently, the Story Museum, Oxford, featured a visually stunning and very imaginative exhibition entitled Tea with Alice. It was a wonderful exhibition, a bringing together of the work of many artists who have illustrated Alice’s story, from the Victorian era through to today . It ended with a room set up as the Mad Hatter’s tea party and my daughters and I got to wear lots of different hats and try our hand at writing riddles. Having been inspired by the illustrations on display, I made it my mission to seek out our favourite adaptations and editions of this classic children’s tale. And here they are.
Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. With artwork by Yayoi Kusama This is an unabridged version brought wonderfully to life by very colourful, sometimes abstract, sometimes very real, artwork. The use of spots and dots feature heavily and this is because Kusama has a rare condition which means that she sees spots on everything she looks at. The effect, however, is surreal, mesmerising and complements well the way Carroll writes and his take on the world through a child’s eyes, that is, extraordinary.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – published by Vintage Classics (Random House Children’s Books) Vintage Children’s Classics is a classics list aimed at 8 – 12 year olds and includes a selection of books that most adults would hold very dear to their hearts – books that were most probably read to them as children or encountered by them at some point during their growing up or even as grown-ups. Some were written a long time ago, some much more recently. They are all, to me, the national treasures of the children’s literary world. They include such gems as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne, Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner, Five Children and It by E Nesbit, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling and others. All the classics in this series come with added extras, the ‘backstory’, which might be a who’s who guide to the main characters, a quiz about the book, an author biog and background, suggestions for further reading, a write-your-own nonsense verse (for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), information about horses (for Black Beauty) or exploring nature activities (for The Wind in the Willows). The children’s classics list is supported by a World of Stories website, featuring six worlds based around the books in the list and filled with lots of activities to do both online and in downloadable form.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland - A Pop-up Adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Original Tale by Robert Sabuda Alice’s adventures lend themselves beautifully to the pop-up treatment and if anyone is going to do it justice then look no further than Robert Sabuda. As readers might already know I am a huge fan of pop-up books and Robert Sabuda in particular. (See here for more pop-up wonders). Each double-page layout is a paper-engineering masterpiece. Open the front cover and you are greeted with the opening scene from Carroll’s book: the riverbank, her sister reading from a book, a small copse of trees (look out for the surprises hidden in the foliage) and Alice running towards the rabbit hole. The rabbit hole itself is revealed within a concertina, folding section which you pull up and look inside to find a tiny Alice falling down, down, down a very long spiral.
There are more stunning and very complicated pieces of engineering as you journey through the book: a full reconstruction of the Mad Hatter’s tea party, complete with a table laid out with an eight-piece tea set, Alice, the Hatter, the sleeping Dormouse and the March Hare; and the deck of cards forming an arch way above and around Alice as she wakes from her dream.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, retold by Harriet Castor, illustrated by Zdenko Basic Like Sabuda’s adaptation, this book also contains many hidden treasures – doorways, flaps, pull-tabs and mini-sized books within a book. But best of all are the sumptuous illustrations throughout – they have a film-like quality to them, a Tim Burton film to be precise. All the characters and creatures feature wonderful expressions on their faces. Alice, in particular, is captivating as she stumbles through each each adventure and encounter.