Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass

( 1512 )

Overview

Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop.'. So many readers were to take the advice of the King of Hearts that by the end of the nineteenth century Alice had acquired a pre-eminent and unassailable position in children's literature. Lewis Carroll's use of logic, by which the ordinary is translated into the extraordinary in an entirely plausible way, is delightfully combined with an exceptional knowledge and understanding of the mind of the child. Satire, allusion, and symbolism weave ...
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Overview

Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop.'. So many readers were to take the advice of the King of Hearts that by the end of the nineteenth century Alice had acquired a pre-eminent and unassailable position in children's literature. Lewis Carroll's use of logic, by which the ordinary is translated into the extraordinary in an entirely plausible way, is delightfully combined with an exceptional knowledge and understanding of the mind of the child. Satire, allusion, and symbolism weave deeper and mysterious meanings, lending a measure of immortality to Carroll's remarkable fantasy.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is one of the most celebrated children's books of all time. Since its publication in 1865 most editions of the beloved tale have featured the work of a single artist. Chronicle Books is proud to present this Classic Illustrated Edition with a unique vision: Lewis Carroll's original story of little Alice's tumble down a rabbit hole is brought to life by a wondrous collection of vintage illustrations gathered from the late 19th & early 20th century editions of the book. This oversize edition of the complete text of Carroll's classic contains examples of illustrations from 29 artists.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Meredith Kiger
This interesting book of critical essays is part of a series created by Dr. Bloom to accompany his "Great Books" studies. Bloom suggests that a liberal education should include the study of 100 of the greatest books ever written. They are the basis of this series and are listed in the beginning of the book. There is some debate, of course, on what are the 100 greatest books. This edition about Alice's Adventures in Wonderland includes 12 critical essays by well-known authors such as J.B. Priestly, Phyllis Greenacre, and Florence Baker Lennon. The authors attempt to categorize Carroll's famous children's novel in terms of thematic content, particular elements such as fantasy or love and death, and his use of poetry. The essays make for challenging and interesting reading, but as even Dr. Bloom admits, "Carroll's genre evades every definition." Carroll's use of nonsense is an English tradition not easily explained, and continues, thank goodness, as evidenced in many Beatles songs and Monty Python performances. Differing from folk tales in its lack of clear moral lessons, Alice's reading remains an exercise in the kind of childlike fun that leaves one thrilled and a bit apprehensive at the same time. The book includes an afterthought by Dr. Bloom, comparing the "Alice" books to modern children's stories such as the "Harry Potter" books; a chronology of the life of Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll); an extensive bibliography; brief vita on the authors of the essays; and an index.
From the Publisher
“Only Lewis Carroll has shown us the world upside down as a child sees it, and has made us laugh as children laugh.” —Virginia Woolf
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780736624152
  • Publisher: Books on Tape, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/28/1993
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: Unabridged, 6 Cassettes

Meet the Author

Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll is the pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1898). He was an English author, mathematician, and photographer. His novels Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass were originally written for a little girl, but became extremely popular among adult readers.

Biography

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, known by his pen name, Lewis Carroll, was a man of diverse interests -- in mathematics, logic, photgraphy, art, theater, religion, medicine, and science. He was happiest in the company of children for whom he created puzzles, clever games, and charming letters.

As all Carroll admirers know, his book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865), became an immediate success and has since been translated into more than eighty languages. The equally popular sequel Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, was published in 1872.

The Alice books are but one example of his wide ranging authorship. The Hunting of the Snark, a classic nonsense epic (1876) and Euclid and His Modern Rivals, a rare example of humorous work concerning mathematics, still entice and intrigue today's students. Sylvie and Bruno, published toward the end of his life contains startling ideas including an 1889 description of weightlessness.

The humor, sparkling wit and genius of this Victorian Englishman have lasted for more than a century. His books are among the most quoted works in the English language, and his influence (with that of his illustrator, Sir John Tenniel) can be seen everywhere, from the world of advertising to that of atomic physics.

Author biography courtesy of Penguin Group (USA).

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    1. Also Known As:
      Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (real name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 27, 1832
    2. Place of Birth:
      Daresbury, Cheshire, England
    1. Date of Death:
      January 14, 1898
    2. Place of Death:
      Guildford, Surrey, England

Read an Excerpt

From Tan Lin's Introduction to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There pursue what lies beyond and down rabbit holes and on reverse sides of mirrors. But mainly their subject is what comes after, and in this sense the books are allegories about what a child can know and come to know. This quest, as in many great works of literature, unwinds against a larger backdrop: what can and what cannot be known at a particular historical moment, a moment that in Lewis Carroll's case preceded both Freud's speculations on the unconscious and Heisenberg's formulation of the uncertainty principle. Yet because the books were written by a teacher of mathematics who was also a reverend, they are also concerned with what can and cannot be taught to a child who has an infinite faith in the goodness and good sense of the world. But Alice's quest for knowledge, her desire to become something (a grown-up) she is not, is inverted. The books are not conventional quest romances in which Alice matures, overcomes obstacles, and eventually gains wisdom. For when Alice arrives in Wonderland, she is already the most reasonable creature there. She is wiser than any lesson books are able to teach her to be. More important, she is eminently more reasonable than her own feelings will allow her to express. What comes after for Alice? Near the end of Through the Looking Glass, the White Queen tells Alice, "Something's going to happen!"

Quests for mastery are continually frustrated in the Alice books. In comparison with the ever—sane Alice, it is the various Wonderland creatures who appear to be ridiculous, coiners of abstract word games. Yet Carroll also frustrates, with equal precision, Alice's more reasonable human desires. Why, after all, cannot Alice know why the Mad Hatter is mad? Or why will Alice never get to 20 in her multiplication tables? In Carroll, the logic of mathematical proofs runs counter to the logic of reasonable human desire—and neither logic is easily mastered. To his radical epistemological doubt, Carroll added a healthy dose of skepticism for the conventional children's story—a story that in his day came packaged with a moral aim and treated the child as an innocent or tabula rasa upon which the morals and knowledge of the adult could be tidily imprinted.

Alice embodies an idea Freud would later develop at length: What Alice the child already knows, the adult has yet to learn. Or to be more precise, what Alice has not yet forgotten, the adult has yet to remember as something that is by nature unforgettable. In other words, in Alice childhood fantasy meets the reality of adulthood, which to the child looks as unreal and unreasonable as a Cheshire Cat's grin or a Queen who yells "Off with her head!" But even as she calls adult reality unreal, Alice, as the most reasonable creature in her unreasonable dreams, doesn't quite yet realize that the adult's sense of reality has already taken up residence in her. The principal dream of most children—the dream within the dream, as it were—is the dream of not dreaming any longer, the dream of growing up. For the adult, the outlook is reversed. The adult's quest is an inverted one: to find those desires again, in more reasonable forms—and this involves forgetting the original childhood desires (to become an adult) in order to remember them as an adult. The psychoanalyst Adam Phillips notes: "Freud is not really saying that we are really children, but that the sensual intensities of childhood cannot be abolished, that our ideals are transformed versions of childhood pleasures. Looking forward . . . is a paradoxical form of looking back. The future is where one retrieves the pleasures, the bodily pleasures of the past."1 The Alice books manage to show both these quests—that of the child to look forward, and of the adult to look back—simultaneously, as mirror logics of each other.

Like both Freud and the surrealists, Carroll implicitly understood that a child's emotions and desires appear omnipotent and boundless to the child—and thus make the adult's forgetting of them difficult if not illogical. Growing up poses psychological and logical absurdities. The quandary of a logically grounded knowledge constituted out of an illogical universe pervades both books. The questions that Alice asks are not answered by the animals in Wonderland nor by anyone after she wakens. It is likely that her questions don't have answers or that there are no right questions to ask. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass remain the most prophetic of the nineteenth century's anti-narratives, inverted quest romances, circular mathematical treatises on the illogical logic of forgetting one's desires. They display a logic that the child must master in order to grow up. As the White Queen remarks of the Red Queen: "She's in that state of mind . . . that she wants to deny something—only she doesn't know what to deny!"

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Table of Contents

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Preface


Introduction


It is difficult to explain in words what the pictures are trying to say, and therefore my explanations are not precisely what I had in mind because they add shades of meaning which are not there. The reader can only interpret them in his own way, bringing his own observations to bear on the image he is looking at, so that he may agree or disagree with what I have tried to convey. When I set out to draw an idea, part of that idea is not yet formed and only takes shape and reveals itself as the drawing progresses. Consequently, the drawing acquires a life of its own and virtually takes over the direction it will follow -- or so it seems.

I have made a few notes about some of the pictures. The rest are self explanatory or purely illustrations.

THE WHITE RABBIT. Worried by time, hurrying and scurrying. Sane within a routine, slightly insane but more engaging when the routine is upset. Today's commuter.

THE DODO in this picture reminded me of an Archbishop and being as "dead as a dodo" it fitted perfectly. The other animals remind me of people I know, rather as Lewis Carroll apparently created them around friends and associates. The reader can place his own interpretation on them. It was never my intention to set everything in concrete.

I rather hate dogs. They seem to have soaked up all the worst in human nature. They are more human and even more stupid. In place of Tenniel's pug dog which perhaps was the fashionable dog when he drew the pictures, the poodle seems the most apt substitute. The dog is the perfect feed for the man who wants his ego pumped. He can take for granted the dog's blind loyalty and obedience.The dog fouls the pavement and the man fouls the rest of the world.

THE YOUNG INTELLECTUAL. Smoking hash, pedantic, who thinks he has something to say and sheds his opinions as easily as his skins.

THE FATHER WILLIAM set to me is the arrogance of youth versus the certainty of an old man's memories.


  1. The young man reinforces his arrogance by using the old man's experience as a crutch.

  2. Whilst throwing past standards out of the window the young man may often come back in through the door if he finds his
  3. yardstick less than three feet.

  4. An old man can become intense talking about right and wrong, and a youth can become bored as a result.

  5. The old man showing he hasn't lost his touch but the young man finds it is all a big joke.



THE DUCHESS is an ex-starlet who married the aristocrat. A high-class tart gone to seed. Her tiny mind has developed a home-spun philosophy within a cultured environment in an effort to keep up appearances.

THE COOK found fame in the kitchen and enjoys her prima donna tendencies.

THE CHESHIRE CAT makes an ideal TV Announcer whose smile remains as the rest of the programme fades out.

The growth of the tea party tree turns logic upside down. It begins in a puzzle at its top and grows down to its roots.

THE HATTER represents the unpleasant sides of human nature. The unreasoned argument screams at you. The bully, the glib quiz game compère who rattles off endless reels of unanswerable riddles and asks you to come back next week and make a bloody fool of yourself again.

THE MARCH HARE is always standing close by. The "egger-on" urging the banality to plumb even greater depths. He always seems to be around to push someone into a fight.

THE DORMOUSE is always the dormouse. Harmless and nice. The man anyone in the office can take a rise out of. If you tread on his face he will smile right back at you.

THE BRITISH WORKMAN. Bickering about who splashed who and standing in the stuff all the time anyway.

THE MONARCH having evolved or developed into a shapeless mass of hangers-on, the State, H.M. Forces, the Church, the establishment walking on one pair of very well-worn legs. The King and Queen born into it and enveloped in it and lost in it, obliged to go through the motions automatically but surprising even themselves by their own outbursts.

The Duchess again The old con trying to glean from Alice some of the objectivity and honesty she lost years ago.

The croquet game when internal confusion disrupts the xvhole structure. Practically showing its knickers, the heaving mass struggles vainly to maintain its dignity and avoid humiliation.

THE GRYPHON to me is the commissionaire of a modern office block. His epaulettes are his wings. He is slow thinking, sometimes ignorant. If you walk into the building in a humble manner, he exercises his authority to the full and crushes you, but if you walk in looking important he will lick your boots. The only man in the building he can order about is the caretaker, so he is the mock turtle who may have more intelligence but is satisfied with his lot, or at least has accepted it graciously. They may also be quite good friends. The dance would express their nicer sides when they are.

THE LOBSTER wearing the old school tie joins exclusive clubs and reckons he is pretty sharp until a real shark comes along.

My only regret is that I didn't write the story.

Ralph Steadman - London - 1967

--

Yes, I did! I did write the story, in my other life. It was all so familiar when I picked it up and read it for the first time in 1967. For the first time, as I thought, but don't you ever get that strange sensation that what you are reading or watching is something you already know? Something that is in your mind already? Bells of recognition ring as you welcome an old friend. All good ideas are like that. You already know them. The familiarity is part of the enjoyment. The words someone has taken the trouble to write down merely reveal the contents of your own mind. The picture someone has struggled to create is something you have already seen, otherwise how would you ever recognise its content?

You have already experienced the sum of its parts. You have lived them, or maybe you have dreamed them. They are the vocabulary of a vast collective consciousness which it is your everyday choice to delve into or ignore at will. What we choose to emphasise forms the structure of our lives, and what an artist chooses to depict forms the basis of his work -- but of course not the sum total, for in an artist's world two and two make five. And what an artist says three times is true! Familiarity breeds acceptance. The greater the artist, the greater number of reference points are offered for the rest of us to recognise. The more we recognise, the better we feel. We experience a greater satisfaction because we have contributed to the whole. The spectator has fulfilled his role to a greater or lesser degree depending on his or her receptive faculties.

As far as my pictures are concerned in their role as extensions of Lewis Carroll's stories, they stand up for me as well today as they did when I first made them nearly two decades ago. It would be interesting if the reader could identify (no prizes, of course) the new pictures I have drawn for this edition. I have tried to remain true to originals, and I defy anyone to detect the difference. Lewis Carroll has unravelled some of the complicated conundrums that bedevil our daily lives and our dream-worlds. My pictures are one man's response between the lines.

What can be said in pictures cannot necessarily be said in words, and vice versa. "Contrariwise, if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic."

"I know what you're thinking about, but it isn't so, nohow."

Ralph Steadman - Maidstone Bird Sanctuary - September 1986

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Introduction

Introduction

It is difficult to explain in words what the pictures are trying to say, and therefore my explanations are not precisely what I had in mind because they add shades of meaning which are not there. The reader can only interpret them in his own way, bringing his own observations to bear on the image he is looking at, so that he may agree or disagree with what I have tried to convey. When I set out to draw an idea, part of that idea is not yet formed and only takes shape and reveals itself as the drawing progresses. Consequently, the drawing acquires a life of its own and virtually takes over the direction it will follow -- or so it seems.

I have made a few notes about some of the pictures. The rest are self explanatory or purely illustrations.

THE WHITE RABBIT. Worried by time, hurrying and scurrying. Sane within a routine, slightly insane but more engaging when the routine is upset. Today's commuter.

THE DODO in this picture reminded me of an Archbishop and being as "dead as a dodo" it fitted perfectly. The other animals remind me of people I know, rather as Lewis Carroll apparently created them around friends and associates. The reader can place his own interpretation on them. It was never my intention to set everything in concrete.

I rather hate dogs. They seem to have soaked up all the worst in human nature. They are more human and even more stupid. In place of Tenniel's pug dog which perhaps was the fashionable dog when he drew the pictures, the poodle seems the most apt substitute. The dog is the perfect feed for the man who wants his ego pumped. He can take for granted the dog's blind loyalty and obedience. The dog fouls the pavementand the man fouls the rest of the world.

THE YOUNG INTELLECTUAL. Smoking hash, pedantic, who thinks he has something to say and sheds his opinions as easily as his skins.

THE FATHER WILLIAM set to me is the arrogance of youth versus the certainty of an old man's memories.

  1. The young man reinforces his arrogance by using the old man's experience as a crutch.
  2. Whilst throwing past standards out of the window the young man may often come back in through the door if he finds his
  3. yardstick less than three feet.
  4. An old man can become intense talking about right and wrong, and a youth can become bored as a result.
  5. The old man showing he hasn't lost his touch but the young man finds it is all a big joke.

THE DUCHESS is an ex-starlet who married the aristocrat. A high-class tart gone to seed. Her tiny mind has developed a home-spun philosophy within a cultured environment in an effort to keep up appearances.

THE COOK found fame in the kitchen and enjoys her prima donna tendencies.

THE CHESHIRE CAT makes an ideal TV Announcer whose smile remains as the rest of the programme fades out.

The growth of the tea party tree turns logic upside down. It begins in a puzzle at its top and grows down to its roots.

THE HATTER represents the unpleasant sides of human nature. The unreasoned argument screams at you. The bully, the glib quiz game compère who rattles off endless reels of unanswerable riddles and asks you to come back next week and make a bloody fool of yourself again.

THE MARCH HARE is always standing close by. The "egger-on" urging the banality to plumb even greater depths. He always seems to be around to push someone into a fight.

THE DORMOUSE is always the dormouse. Harmless and nice. The man anyone in the office can take a rise out of. If you tread on his face he will smile right back at you.

THE BRITISH WORKMAN. Bickering about who splashed who and standing in the stuff all the time anyway.

THE MONARCH having evolved or developed into a shapeless mass of hangers-on, the State, H.M. Forces, the Church, the establishment walking on one pair of very well-worn legs. The King and Queen born into it and enveloped in it and lost in it, obliged to go through the motions automatically but surprising even themselves by their own outbursts.

The Duchess again The old con trying to glean from Alice some of the objectivity and honesty she lost years ago.

The croquet game when internal confusion disrupts the xvhole structure. Practically showing its knickers, the heaving mass struggles vainly to maintain its dignity and avoid humiliation.

THE GRYPHON to me is the commissionaire of a modern office block. His epaulettes are his wings. He is slow thinking, sometimes ignorant. If you walk into the building in a humble manner, he exercises his authority to the full and crushes you, but if you walk in looking important he will lick your boots. The only man in the building he can order about is the caretaker, so he is the mock turtle who may have more intelligence but is satisfied with his lot, or at least has accepted it graciously. They may also be quite good friends. The dance would express their nicer sides when they are.

THE LOBSTER wearing the old school tie joins exclusive clubs and reckons he is pretty sharp until a real shark comes along.

My only regret is that I didn't write the story.

Ralph Steadman - London - 1967

--

Yes, I did! I did write the story, in my other life. It was all so familiar when I picked it up and read it for the first time in 1967. For the first time, as I thought, but don't you ever get that strange sensation that what you are reading or watching is something you already know? Something that is in your mind already? Bells of recognition ring as you welcome an old friend. All good ideas are like that. You already know them. The familiarity is part of the enjoyment. The words someone has taken the trouble to write down merely reveal the contents of your own mind. The picture someone has struggled to create is something you have already seen, otherwise how would you ever recognise its content?

You have already experienced the sum of its parts. You have lived them, or maybe you have dreamed them. They are the vocabulary of a vast collective consciousness which it is your everyday choice to delve into or ignore at will. What we choose to emphasise forms the structure of our lives, and what an artist chooses to depict forms the basis of his work -- but of course not the sum total, for in an artist's world two and two make five. And what an artist says three times is true! Familiarity breeds acceptance. The greater the artist, the greater number of reference points are offered for the rest of us to recognise. The more we recognise, the better we feel. We experience a greater satisfaction because we have contributed to the whole. The spectator has fulfilled his role to a greater or lesser degree depending on his or her receptive faculties.

As far as my pictures are concerned in their role as extensions of Lewis Carroll's stories, they stand up for me as well today as they did when I first made them nearly two decades ago. It would be interesting if the reader could identify (no prizes, of course) the new pictures I have drawn for this edition. I have tried to remain true to originals, and I defy anyone to detect the difference. Lewis Carroll has unravelled some of the complicated conundrums that bedevil our daily lives and our dream-worlds. My pictures are one man's response between the lines.

What can be said in pictures cannot necessarily be said in words, and vice versa. "Contrariwise, if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic."

"I know what you're thinking about, but it isn't so, nohow."

Ralph Steadman - Maidstone Bird Sanctuary - September 1986

Read More Show Less

Interviews & Essays

An Interview with Helen Oxenbury

Barnes & Noble.com: When you were a child, did you always know you'd be an artist of some sort when you grew up? How did you get your start illustrating kids' books?

Helen Oxenbury: No, I didn't think I would be an artist, but my father was an architect, so drawing in one way or another was very familiar to me. I drew all the time -- but I didn't really think anything of it. It was just something I thought everybody did. What I wanted to be was a dancer. I learned ballet from the age of three and absolutely loved it. And later on, I wanted to be a tennis player. I made it to Junior Wimbledon, but when you go somewhere like that, you realize when you haven't got it -- that you're not good enough. I wasn't -- so that was the end of that. Then when I left secondary school, my father encouraged me to go to art school. I loved every minute of the course I took in art. And I suppose it was at that moment that I thought I would carry on and try for a career in art. But not in illustration at that point. I specialized in theater design. And I worked in the theater for a few years and in television, and it was only after I had married John [Burningham], who was an illustrator and had already produced about two books, that I got the idea. I saw what was involved and how it was done and when we married and started a family, I really wanted to carry on working, so I tried to illustrate children's books -- because I could do it at home. I didn't have to leave the babies. And that's how I started illustrating.

B&N.com: What made you want to take on Alice in Wonderland as a project?

HO: My mother read Alice to me when I was a little girl, and I'm not sure that I particularly understood it all, but I just caught her enthusiasm for it. She loved it. And then I went back to it as an adult and saw all the things that she had loved in it. I, too, loved it on another level. But how this Alice came about was that a television company wanted to make an animated film about it, and they asked a few people to submit illustrations; I think mine were the most suitable. So I did a lot of work and a lot of research on Alice, and that's when I found my ideal Alice. And the project was all sort of going ahead...and then the team left. So I thought, I've done so much work on this, this must be the moment that I go ahead and try and do it on my own. So I took my work to my publisher, and he said, "yes, fine, go ahead."

B&N.com: Was it difficult to illustrate Alice in Wonderland?

HO: Yes. There were several times when I wanted to give it up or to shelve it and go back to it in six months. But my publisher was very encouraging, and they said, "Oh come on, Helen, you can do it...get on with it -- do it." So I did. And that's how it came about.

B&N.com: How long did it take you to illustrate Alice in Wonderland?

HO: It took a good two years to do. But all the research and working, thinking it was going to be an animated film, was about a year before that. So I'd say three years in all. It was difficult because Alice in Wonderland comes with so much baggage; the most wonderful people have illustrated it. And of course I was brought up with the Tenniel illustrations -- which I loved -- but I had to think of how to make it different from Tenniel's Alice in Wonderland. His version was quite sparsely illustrated, so I thought for today's children, because the language is a little bit difficult, they probably could be helped along the way with pictures. So I made my Alice in Wonderland quite densely illustrated. I also wanted to bring to the fore the peripheral characters like the little creatures, which Tenniel didn't do. And to make my illustrations a little warmer and a little more humorous than Tenniel's.

B&N.com: Throughout your career, you've worked on books geared toward a wide range of ages. Is there a type of book that is more difficult for you to illustrate?

HO: The board books, I suppose [I Can, I Hear, I See, I Touch]. It's quite difficult to pare down and simplify. It looks easy, but it isn't. Like an author with his writing, it's extremely difficult to take something down to the bare bones. It took quite a time to get a style going for those board books.

B&N.com: What kinds of things do you like to do when you're not working?

HO: Well, I still play tennis. I kept it up...but it's on a really pathetic level now. I also do yoga, and I love exploring antique shops and junk shops.

B&N.com: What advice do you have for kids who say they want to be illustrators?

HO: Well, I say, "Go ahead!" It is so much more difficult today than it was in my day. I mean, I wouldn't like to have to start now. It's so competitive, and there are so many children's books around. But don't not do it because of that, if you really want to.

B&N.com: Can you tell me some of your favorite kids' books?

HO: That's jolly difficult. I love the work of Edward Ardizzone and Dr. Seuss, who's an absolute genius. But no specific books are coming to me right now. I know, when I put the phone down, it will all come to me....

B&N.com: That's all right, we'll leave it at that. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me. Your Wonderland is simply wonderful, and it's been great getting to know you. (Jamie Levine)

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Reading Group Guide

ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND and THROUGH THE LOOKING-GLASS
by Lewis Carroll

 

INTRODUCTION

In his diary on July 4, 1862, Lewis Carroll wrote, "Duckworth and I made an expedition up the river to Godstow with the three Liddells: we had tea on the bank there, and did not reach Christ Church again till quarter past eight, when we took them to my rooms to see my collection of micro photographs, and restored them to the Deanery just before nine." Although Carroll did not know at the time, this excursion proved to be the catalyst for the fairy tale which he initially called Alice's Adventures Underground.

In later years, Carroll, his friend Robinson Duckworth, and Alice Liddell all alluded to this day as the origin of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. In the opening poem to the story, Carroll wrote:

Thus grew the tale of Wonderland:
Thus slowly, one by one,
Its quaint events were hammered out —
And now the tale is done,
And home we steer, a merry crew,
Beneath the setting sun.

In its initial form, this tale told on July 4, 1862, was simply another entry in the oral story tradition that Carroll forged on the numerous expeditions on the "quiet stream." Years later, Carroll wrote, "many a day we had rowed together on that quiet stream—the three little maidens and I—and many a fairy tale had been extemporised for their benefit." He indicates there were numerous other tales that "lived and died like summer midges," but in this single instance "one of my little listeners petitioned that the tale might be written out for her," and thus began Alice's adventures.

Alice's adventures begin on a lazy summer day when a "White Rabbit with pink eyes" races by her. While it was unremarkable for a rabbit to run by her and it was not "very much out of the way" to hear the Rabbit talk, she hurried after the White Rabbit when it "actually took a watch out of its waistcoat pocket." Alice scrambled to her feet and followed it, without a thought, down a large rabbit-hole. Similarly, in Through the Looking-Glass, Alice impulsively goes through the glass over the mantel and into the Looking-Glass room. Later, in both stories, this initial impulsiveness becomes tempered through experience. Although Alice learns from her experiences, the stories were neither moralistic nor written for the purpose of teaching lessons. Instead, they were, and still are, two of the most highly imaginative fairy tales ever conceived.

Both Alice and Looking-Glass, while drawn from Carroll's extemporaneous stories, were later refined and infused with a wealth of allusions to both his own experiences and Alice's. In her travels through Wonderland and the chess-board world behind the Looking-Glass, Alice encounters a multitude of curiosities, many traceable to experiences in her own life. In chapter II of Alice, "The Pool of Tears," she encounters a Duck, a Dodo, a Lory, and an Eaglet. This entire episode in the pool alludes to a trip that Carroll referred to in his diary for June 17, 1862. On this day, during a trip, the traveling party was drenched in a downpour. The animals who appear in the "Pool" chapter represent the trip's participants: the Duck is Carroll's friend Robinson Duckworth, the Dodo is Carroll (a stutterer all his life, Carroll would often pronounce his real name Dodgson as "Do-Do-Dodgson"), and the Lory and the Eaglet are Alice's sisters, Lorina and Edith.

When it was published in 1865, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was reviewed widely in newspapers and journals drawing near universal praise. Among the reviewing publications were The Times, the Spectator, and the Publisher's Circular. The Circular selected the story as "the most original and most charming" of the 200 books for children they were sent that year. When it was published in late 1871, Through the Looking-Glass reaped similar praise.

While Carroll continued to write children's stories, his distinguished place in literary history was firmly established with the publication of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. By the time Carroll died in 1898, there were about 250,000 copies of these stories in print.

While the Alice books have charmed and excited children ever since their first publication, they have also stimulated a wide array of literary, philosophical, and psychological discussion from twentieth-century writers. As the editor of the Penguin Classics edition, Hugh Haughton, makes clear, at the heart of these children's books lie fascinating questions about meaning. Maneuvering throughout Carroll's puns, word plays, and unconventional prose, the adult reader of these books, often finds him or herself feeling two responses at once: a submission to the spontaneous play of nonsense, to utter meaninglessness—as the Lobster-Quadrille would urge—and a compulsion to interpret, or decode meaning in even the most trivial incident—as Queen Alice might do. For twentieth-century writers like James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and W. H. Auden who borrowed freely from Carroll, the Alice books have become models of experimental writing. For other intellectuals, reading Alice's Adventures and Through the Looking-Glass as Surrealist dream books, Freudian case studies, or political allegories, they have become texts brimming with profound insights.

 

ABOUT LEWIS CARROLL Of Lewis Carroll, Virginia Woolf said, "since childhood remained in him entire, he could do what no one else has ever been able to do—he could return to that world; he could re-create it, so that we too become children again." Edmund Wilson also recognized Carroll's ability to see from a child's perspective when he noted, "Lewis Carroll is in touch with the real mind of childhood." Wilson linked this understanding to a flair for drawing on "the more primitive elements of the mind of maturity." These characterizations describing the creator of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass exemplify the enigmatic Carroll. However, most casual readers may be unaware that Carroll was also a don at Christ Church, Oxford University where he spent most of his adult life as a Mathematics lecturer. In addition, Carroll was a logician, a renowned photographer, and a prolific letter writer and diarist.

Lewis Carroll was born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson in 1832 in the parsonage of Daresbury in Cheshire, England, a small village about twenty miles from Liverpool. The third child and eldest son in a household of seven girls and four boys, Charles spent the first eleven years of his life on this secluded farm. The surroundings of the parsonage were reflected in the characters and images that grace both Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. One can imagine a young Charles seeing the White Rabbit, the animals in the Caucus-Race, the Caterpillar and the mushroom, the Mouse, the garden of flowers and much more as he grew up amidst the barnyard and fields of the parsonage.

In 1850, Charles entered Christ Church, Oxford where he would spend the rest of his life as a student, fellow, and lecturer; and where he developed into an accomplished photographer, and met Alice Liddell, the heroine of his great stories. During his lifetime, Charles Dodgson published nearly 300 works on an array of topics. These works included not only children's stories but also books and pamphlets on mathematics, logic, and philosophical debates at Oxford. In addition, he wrote parodies such as "Hints for Etiquette, or Dining Out Made Easy" and constructed games, puzzles, riddles, and acrostics. Among his works are: Euclid and His Modern Rivals, Formulae of Plane Trigonometry, Guide to the Mathematical Student in Reading, and Game of Logic (a method of teaching the principles of logic to children). Allusions to these writings and interests were scattered throughout the Alice books. Both stories, though clearly written to amuse young children, were also replete with puns and allusions to Victorian society, making them 'mature' enough to pique the interest of adults. Interestingly, Dodgson contrived his pen name as a slight puzzle in itself. The pseudonym Lewis Carroll, was created by Latinizing his two given names, Charles Lutwidge, to Carolus Ludovicus, reversing them and translating them back into English.

Besides the array of intellectual pursuits, Charles Dodgson's interests also extended to gadgets, most importantly the photographic camera. Dodgson was introduced to photography by his Uncle Skeffington Lutwidge. In the 1850s and 1860s, prior to the actual development of film, this art form required patience and devotion. Among the persons of his era whom Dodgson persuaded to sit for portraits were the poet Alfred Tennyson, Sir John Millais, Prince Leopold (the youngest son of Queen Victoria), Lord Salisbury (who became Oxford Chancellor in 1870), the Crown Prince of Denmark, John Ruskin, and the actress Ellen Terry. Besides such luminaries, Dodgson also photographed young children he met during his years at Oxford, including Alice Liddell.

However, it is through Charles Dodgson's extensive letters and diaries that a great deal of his life, motivations, and inspiration are revealed. Starting on January 1, 1861, Dodgson began maintaining a register of all the letters he sent and received. Although the register has never been found, the final number that he recorded was 98,721. In a letter to a friend of his, Mary Brown, he estimated he wrote 2,000 letters each year. There are letters to friends, family, his publisher and illustrator, and to endearing young fans. The minutiae of daily life also crept into his correspondence. After the death of his brother-in-law, just days prior to his own, he wrote his nephew, Stuart Collingwood requesting a simple funeral and burial upon his own death. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson died at age 66 on January 14, 1898.

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. Traditionally, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass are both considered stories intended for children. If you were asked to support the contention that these are actually stories for adults, how would you defend this?
     
  2. Alice Liddell, the model for Carroll's fairy tale heroine, was a young child when these stories were first told. Although a child in the story, Alice often exhibits mature characteristics; and the adult characters often exhibit childish behavior. Do you consider these books to be an adult's view of childhood, or a child's view of adulthood?
     
  3. Alice rarely speaks nonsense and rarely enjoys it when it is spoken to her. In fact, her speech and manners are as proper as those of any Jane Austen heroine. How is Alice's perception of the world changed when confronted with the world and characters of nonsense?
     
  4. The Cheshire Cat suggests that everything Alice experiences in Wonderland is a dream or the result of madness. Prefiguring Freud's theories, Carroll, in a diary entry, defined "insanity as an inability to distinguish which is the waking and which the sleeping life." Besides the obvious absurdities in imagery what other aspects of these books mimic a dream state?
     
  5. "Take care of the sense, and the sounds will take care of themselves." This play on the proverb, "Take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves," is a good example of Carroll's word play. Often these word plays end up with a nonsensical locution; but at other times, as is the case here, they create a completely different, often subversive, meaning. Discuss other examples of Carroll's word play.
     
  6. Throughout her adventures, Alice grapples with her identity. While this is a common feature of most children's books, Alice's questioning often inadvertently invokes the ideas of western philosophers from Plato to Bishop Berkeley. What philosophical issues about identity does Alice raise?
     
  7. Throughout both Alice and Looking-Glass, Alice usually exhibits a passivity to the incomprehensible events around her. However, at critical times, she learns to assume control of her circumstances. When does this occur and what actions does she take?
     
  8. What is the significance of the mushroom that Alice eats during her adventures?
     
  9. Let's assume that in Lewis Carroll's original telling of these stories, he viewed himself as a teacher/mentor to Alice Liddell. How do the ways in which the fictional Alice adapts to her shifting and unusual circumstances translate into meaningful lessons for a child of Alice Liddell's age?
     
  10. If the Caterpillar from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland were to give advice to Tweedledee and Tweedledum from Through the Looking-Glass on how to solve their differences without having "a bit of a fight," what might the Caterpillar advise?
     
  11. Since their publication, many readers have found material in Carroll's book unsuitable for children. Which parts of the Alice books, if any, do you think are unfit, or even harmful, to children today?
     
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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 1519 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Well Done

    I've never read the book before last week and must say that disney must have had something against Lewis Carroll because they butchered this amazing book by making that cartoon. This book has an amazing amount of detail that will keep you imagining about each chapter for hours. I would recommend this book to anyone with an open mind and a wild imagination. Instant Classic on my shelf

    24 out of 26 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 14, 2009

    Alice in Wonderland

    I really enjoyed this book. It was very strange, but it kept me interested. My favorite character throughout this whole book was the Caterpillar. I liked how even after changing into a beautiful butterfly, he still remains the same snarky personality. I also enjoyed the descriptive language, and the real-ness that the author brought to Alice.

    16 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2010

    A New Appreciation

    I decided to read this book after seeing the Tim Burton movie. It had been years since I had seen the Disney cartoon Alice and Wonderland and I remember seeing a Disney version of Alice Through the Looking Glass. In order to remind myself of what I hd seen I decided to read the book and get the original story since I never read it before. I was not overly impressed by the story but enthralled with the imagination and creativity of the world that Alice "falls" into. However I now have more respect for the classic and I definitely think it is something everyone should have in their library as a reminder of what real creativity and imagination was like without being gruesome and gory.

    10 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 8, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Amazing Book

    This is a book I can see reading to my children someday (that is, if I ever have any). I'm 19 and I never knew that "Alice in Wonderland" was a book before it was a Disney "Classic". My sister and I were wondering around Barnes and Noble and she stumbled onto this book. She purchased it and attempted to read it but she's only 12 and therefor couldn't really understand some of the wordings (It's written in an old style). I was bored one rainy day and picked it up. I couldn't put it down until I'd finished the whole thing. It's a lovely book and it really does remind me of being a child. I giggled a lot throughout. Overall, good read.

    10 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 21, 2009

    So Much Sense In A Nonsense World

    So many times during my day to day life, I find occasions to quote this fabulous book. It's philosophical nonsense seems to make very much sense in my life. Many times I find myself thinking like Alice and giving myself very good advice, such as, "if you drink much from a bottle marked 'poison,' it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later."

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2012

    Barnes and Noble Classics=Perfect

    I own the physical copy of this book and I have to say it was wonderful. The book was a little fast for me; I found it hard to follow at some points. One second Alice was talking to the hookah-smoking caterpillar, the next she's God only knows where. At times, I found myself hating Alice for her foolishness. I mean, seriously, who follows a rabbit down a rabbit hole? The plot over all was all right, it's the significant detailc the story's told in that makes this story a literary classic.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 24, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Wish I Could Be Mad There, Too.

    Don't get me wrong, this is actually one of my favorite stories. Thing is, there isn't much of an actual story, is there. It's a book about a girl who falls asleep and dreams she's fallen down a rabbit hole and into a strange world where she meets a bunch and AMAZINGLY created characters and gets into a couple sticky situations. That's all really, it's a fun, colorful story without a point.

    Because of the lack of plot, it's a very difficult story to form any emotional connection to. Lewis Carroll had an amazing mind, and Wonderland is a beautiful adventure through his world, but making Alice have next to no character growth forces us to remain at arms length from the magical world he created, almost denying us passage in. Alice hardly changes from when she falls asleep to when she wakes up. There is not really a disernable climax, and while she does find herself in plenty of peril, there has to be an effort made in order to see any danger she is in.

    The reason I do love this story, and the main reason I think it's worth reading, is because of the incredible range of characters. They're all so well-known and interesting. I love to read all of my favorite characters, especially the Hatter and the Cheshire-Cat. They all have such insane personalities, a sense of glorious freedom and fun, but coated with an obvious danger, and that makes them all the more appealing. Quite honestly, I'd switch places with Alice, just to play croquet with the Queen or converse with the Caterpillar, or dance with the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon. I could easily spend years sitting with the Dormouse, the March Hare, and the Hatter, sipping tea and just giggling. Really, I think Wonderland is the place for me.

    Besides the fun characters and interesting situations, there isn't much to the story. It has a lack-luster plot and only the tiniest of messages that comes in near the end. It also teaches us quite an important lesson, but that one may be a little obvious. Deserving of the classic status, definitely, and one of my favorites, but not the best.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2010

    Great Print of this book

    I loved the cover of this book, the old fashioned style. It stood out over all the other copies of Alice in Wonderland. And of course it is a great classic story. I am very happy with my purchase. This book is a keeper.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2010

    Original Alice

    I was very happy with this book. As a child through adulthood, I had heard and seen the "Alice in Wonderland" story numerous times. However, reading this book gave me a different perspective on Alice's story. I had always thought Alice in Wonderland was one story that told of Alice's adventures in Wonderland. After reading this book, I learned that wasn't true. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was written years before Through the Looking-Glass and they are actually 2 separate stories. I thoroughly enjoyed traveling with Alice through her Adventures and I also learned quite about a Lewis Carroll in the introduction of this book. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass is a must-have for a classic readers library.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Befuddling Brilliance

    This is one of the deepest works of literature I have ever perused. Deep, taking the meaning here of perplexing and complicated, yet thoroughly enthralling. Both works take on the same general shape (fantastical worlds of surrealism) but with completely unconnected plots. However, this point lacks relevance--as does most of the plot line (if one can find it.) What relevance and meaning there is to be found comes from what one decides to glean from it.

    The conclusion I arrived at was this enigma of a tale is worth a read, if for no other reason than to challenge one's own thought processes and interpretative capacities. Put simply, Alice/Looking Glass is an infinite enigma of pure imagination.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2010

    Alice in Wonderland--8 years and counting

    I apologize in advance, to anyone who may be offended by my thoughts. I've tried a total of 5 times in the last 8 years to finish or appreciate this book. I just can't for some reason. I recently tried again; for the sake of bettering myself, reading any type of genre I can, and exploring classic literature. I moved down my list of "the must reads" and then came back to my old nemesis "Alice in Wonderland"; I took a deep breath and went in with an open mind. I've read hundreds of reviews for this story mostly all on glowing terms and love for this book. There must be something I'm missing, because it just doesn't pull me in. It's so odd, I love fantasy and fairy tales but Lewis Carroll's world just doesn't make me want to follow the white rabbit. I really don't understand, maybe I'm trying too hard. I guess I'll try again next year.

    2 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2008

    Likely One of the Worst Books I Have Ever Read

    Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland was, to me, immensely tedious, as well as pointless. The main character, Alice, was an imbecile, and seemed quite self- centred. She had a one- track mind and continually made the same idiotic mistakes. None of the characters particularly grew on me, and they all seemed to have one side to them, as they were undeveloped. Overall, the characters, as well as the dull story line, make this book one that I wish I had never picked up.

    2 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2012

    Hey its me again!!!!!!

    I just startd to read it and saw they called chapter 1 chaptee 1!!!!!! i thought it was so cute i still think it a great book though.
    From,
    A book worm (again)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2012

    Weird scan errors, a lot better than most so far

    Plenty of scanning errors, but they're mostly minor. Most 's have been turned into ^s for some inexplicable reason.
    Still, sadly, a better scan than most, and has both Alice books.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2012

    Weird and confusing.

    1 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2012

    OK

    Liked the book, but hated misspelled words

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2011

    .jie

    Wn nfdjduwkwjffbR

    1 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 19, 2010

    Alice

    I enjoyed reading the story of Alice in wonderland. It is of course a classic. Well, it really just wasn't my kind of book. It's not like most books that I read, I'm more into horror novels but I think it was descent. It's probably one of the most imaginative books I've ever read. Louis Carol was a very imaginative person and for that I really do like this book. I think that everyone should at least skim through this book. It's just one of those books that you've should read with in their life time, like I said it is a classic and it's very imaginative and even though It's not general the type of book I would read I enjoyed it.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 17, 2010

    Good read for adults and older children

    After seeing the images in the recent 3D movie, I wanted to read this book, again. The forward and appendix provided explanation of Lewis Carroll's life which helped me understand the context of the book better and clarified some of the recent controversy about his relationships with children. Additionally, there was a translation of Jabborwocky which was great.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 24, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Can't Wait to see Tim Burton Movie 2010!

    A little research told me that this story was made up during a 5 mile row boat trip, told to three girls, one of them named Alice. I thought this was pretty interesting. Alice in wonderland is great, very creative, and very imaginative. Alice falls into a world that is much like a dream, and it flows well from one incident to the next. Through the looking glass was harder to follow because it jumped into each event. Our dreams tend to put us from one place to the next with no journey. It is patterned like she's walking through a giant chess board. However, I do like that everything Alice does is backwards. Contrariwise to the mirror she walked through. Very creative. I would definitely share this book with a child. It may be confusing at times, but it is fun.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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