When Alice follows a white rabbit down a rabbit hole, little did she know she was in store for growing and shrinking, talking animals, a mad tea party, and a trial.
I love Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll for many reasons: the imaginative and lyrical writing, the delightful dialogue, the fantastic fantasy world, the colorful characters, the detailed illustrations by John Tenniel, and, most of all, the independent and thoughtful protagonist. I think the character of Alice is truly great. She's resourceful and spunky. The only big thing upon which Alice and I disagree: she, at the start, thinks books without pictures or conversations are useless. Nonsense, dear child!
If you have yet to read the original version of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, please do. Project Gutenberg has posted the full text and illustrations online. You can visit Google Books.
A Booklist is Born
Thank you to Rebecca for prompting this booklist! May your class put it to good use.
Recommended Reading: Written by Charles Dodgson Himself
Alice's Adventures Under Ground written and illustrated by Lewis Carroll
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by John Tenniel
Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by John Tenniel
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, a Classic Illustrated Edition compiled by Cooper Edens - illustrations from the late 19th and early 20th centuries from multiple artists throughout the original text
The Complete Works of Lewis Carroll
The Selected Letters of Lewis Carroll
The Annotated Alice - the original text by Lewis Carroll and illustrations by John Tenniel with notes by Martin Gardner
Recommended Reading: Non-Fiction
Alice's Adventures: Lewis Carroll in Popular Culture by Will Brooker
The Other Alice by Christina Björk - This juvenile biography about Alice Liddell and Charles Dodgson offers humorous anecdotes (42!) and gorgeous illustrations. Sadly, I think it is out of print. Happily, I own a copy. Thank you, used bookstore! Highly recommended.
Recommended Reading: Fiction
Still She Haunts Me by Katie Roiphe - The story of an unlikely friendship between an intelligent man who fit nowhere and the spunky girl who inspired his best-known work. This is a fictional take on the friendship of Alice Liddell and Charles Dodgson, with Charles' real letters woven in throughout the book. Shelved in adult fiction/literature. Highly recommended.
Recommended Reading: Graphic Novel Adaptations
Wonderland by Tommy Kovac, illustrated by Sonny Liew - Told from Mary Ann's point of view - great twist!
Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland by Martin Powell
Related Works of Fiction
The Problem of the Missing Miss by Roberta Rogow - Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Dodgson team up to find a little girl who has been abducted. A fun, fast-moving historical mystery, shelved in adult fiction or mystery. No fantasy elements are involved. There are just enough references to each author's works to be cute, rather than overdone. To the best of my knowledge, the two men never met in real life. I liked how they worked together in this book. Thanks to Sarah for the recommendation.
Art and Gift Books
All Things Alice: The Wit, Wisdom, and Wonderland of Lewis Carroll compiled by Linda Sunshine
Dreaming in Pictures: The Photography of Lewis Carroll by Douglas R. Nickel
The Art of Alice in Wonderland by Stephanie Lovett Stoffel
The Baby-Sitters Club #121: Abby in Wonderland by Ann M. Martin - I love the BSC series and I love Alice in Wonderland, so I was hoping for more from this book than I got. Abby attends an Alice-themed party thrown by her grandparents. The costumes*, the food, and the decorations were all appropriate for the theme, but Wonderland itself did not matter to the story. It could have just as easily have been a fifties-themed party or a Narnia-themed party. The plot of the book did not have any ties to nor parallels with Wonderland. I wasn't expecting it to become a fantasy, of course - BSC stories are dramatic and comedic, but firmly realistic - but I wanted Wonderland to matter, to have been chosen for a reason. In fact, the plot itself was not fully realized. When I read the final page, I felt as if the story was only half-over.
*The grandmother dressed like the White Queen, who is actually from Through the Looking-Glass. The illustrations on the cover did not quite match the descriptions in the book. But I digress.
Attempted Sequels - Related titles that left me lukewarm
Automated Alice by Jeff Noon
Alice Through the Needle's Eye by Gilbert Adair
The Roundhill by Dick King-Smith
Down the Rabbit Hole by Peter Abrahams
. . . and those I have yet to read:
The Looking-Glass Wars by Frank Beddor and other books in the line
A New Alice in the Old Wonderland by Anna M. Richards
Fantastic Alice edited by Margaret Weiss
My favorite film version of this imaginative tale was made in 1972. As I mentioned in a much earlier post, I first saw this movie as a child and was absolutely delighted to see a brunette Alice (portrayed by Fiona Fullerton) rather than a blond girl. This British live-action musical was adapted and directed by William Sterling, with music by John Barry and lyrics by Don Black, based on those by Lewis Carroll. It employs the full title of the original book: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
I think Charles Dodgson would like this adaptation of his most famous story. It offers a beautiful score by John Barry (Somewhere in Time), and the lyrics by Don Black are nearly lifted directly from the page. The movie is available on DVD, and the soundtrack is available on CD. Get them. Get them now.
The icon I used for this post captures one of my favorite shots from the film. Look how well it matches Tenniel's illustration. See all of the icons I made from the film. Thanks for the screenshots, Emily!
Additional Film and Television Adaptations of Alice
(If it's bold, I've seen it from start to finish. Bold doesn't mean I loved it, just that I've watched it. If it's italicized, I've only seen a few scenes.)
Film and television adaptations of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland include:
Alice in Wonderland (live-action film, 1903)
Alice in Wonderland (live-action film, 1933)
Alice in Wonderland (live-action made-for-TV movie, BBC, 1946)
Alice in Wonderland (stop-motion film, 1951)
Alice in Wonderland (animated film, Disney, 1951)
The Adventures of Alice (live-action made-for-TV movie, BBC, 1960)
Alice in Wonderland (live-action made-for-TV movie, BBC, 1966)
Alice of Wonderland in Paris (animated film, 1966)
Alice in Wonderland, or, What's a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This? (animated made-for-TV movie, Hanna-Barbera, 1966)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (live-action musical film, 1972 - see above for reasons why it's my favorite adaptation)
Алиса в Стране Чудес (animated film, Russian, 1981)
Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland (filmed stage play, 1982)
Fushigi no Kuni no Alice (animated film, Japanese, 1983)
Alice in Wonderland (made-for-TV two-part movie, CBS, 1985)
Alice in Wonderland (live-action + puppetry five-episode TV series, 1985)
Alice in Wonderland (live-action four-episode TV series, BBC, 1986)
The Care Bears Adventure in Wonderland (1987)
Alice in Wonderland (animated film, Australian, 1988)
Alice (live-action + stop-motion film, 1988)
Alice in Wonderland (live-action made-for-TV movie, NBC, 1999)
Alice's Misadventures in Wonderland (live-action film, 2004)
Alice in Wonderland (live-action, 2010)
I heard about Phoebe in Wonderland in August 2008 and was immediately interested. I watched the trailer online and want to see the film in full.
Alice, Meet Johnny Smith
The Dead Zone was a thought-provoking, creative television series. It brought Alice up more than once.
In Season 1, they closed an episode with a character reading aloud to Johnny from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, after having referenced the story a few times throughout the previous scenes. Later, for a different episode, they released a still image of Sarah and J.J. reading the book.
In Season 6, the episode Big Top revolved around an Alice in Wonderland-themed fair. The circus performers who were dressed as characters from the book had gorgeous costumes and props. Though I wouldn't wear them together, I seriously want Alice's dress and knee-highs. The episode also made multiple, important references to the show's pilot episode, which made me extremely happy.
I'd much rather read the original book or watch the aforementioned musical than watch the animated Disney film. I didn't care for their depiction of Alice as I felt she was not as strong nor as intelligent as she was in the book. The inaccurate parts of Disney's adaptation bug me. They changed things from the book, then brought in elements from Through the Looking Glass only to change those too. Sigh. I didn't care for the live-action Disney/Tim Burton film adaptation either.
No, It's Not a Romance
A lot of adaptations add an element of romance, often making the Mad Hatter Alice's love interest. First of all, no. One of the best aspects of the original story is that Alice is strong, even when she's all by herself. She is young and innocent. She is searching for a way home, not searching for love. She learns things about herself. She is on her own most of the time; those who guide her are strangers who come in and out of the story, while she is the only through line, the only ever-present character. Any fear is trumped by her need to know and to explore - curiosity is what keeps pulling her forward.
Second of all, no. Please, everyone, stop romanticizing the Mad Hatter. He's not Alice's peer, and he's not a romantic interest. He's an adult, and he is cuckoo. He's an example of the nonsense in Wonderland. He's not supposed to be her boyfriend. Neither is the March Hare. Neither is the dormouse.
I think it's strange when people shine the spotlight on the Mad Hatter and forget about the March Hare and the dormouse, because I see those three characters as a unit. They will always be a trio in my mind. Look at Tenniel's illustration - That's what I see.
Charles in Charge
All of the research I've done about Charles Dodgson makes me feel as though he was an intelligent man who loved math, photography, and storytelling, but he didn't quite fit in society. I do not think he was the creepy guy that some assumptive persons would lead you to believe. I think Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was a smart, creative man who didn't fit into society or at least didn't have equal peers, and I think Alice Liddell was honored by the story she inspired.
Oh, if I could only have a little piece of each: I would love to inspire someone's story, and to share my own stories with the world. I am, at times, the White Rabbit for others, but then the results are for others, and I am peripheral yet again.
I am known to explain the difference between Dodgson and Lewis Carroll any time the opportunity presents itself. (Real name versus pen name. Real person, a really shy person, versus a famous name, a known author.)
Frequently Asked Questions
Lenny's Alice in Wonderland Site has one of the best FAQs I've ever read regarding the books, the author, and related works. Check it out.
As Seen in Willowood
A sweet exchange between two characters in the children's book Willowood by Cecilia Galante:
...Nate was right about reading [the book] aloud. Lily had never read a book aloud. It seemed to create a lull of sorts as she went along. She felt sleepy and warm at the same time.
"I like it," she said.
Nate threw the last of the cages over into a pile. "Told you. And we haven't even gotten to the Cheshire cat yet. He's the best. He's so sneaky."
"I can tell I'm already gonna like Alice the best," Lily said. "She's so brave."
"That's just 'cause she's a girl," Nate said. "Girls always like the girls."
Lily shrugged. "Maybe."
How It Started
Have you seen the original manuscript for the first version of the story? Written in Dodgson's own hand, with his own sketches, the story was original called Alice's Adventures Under Ground. It's now available in many different collections and volumes of his work.
Here's one spot where you can read it online.
The Book's Conclusion
I readily admit that I've never cared for the way the book ends. I have two main reasons for this: I felt as though her adventures hadn't quite reached a close, even with the trial and such. She makes a bold declaration, yes, but she was already bold and acted as such throughout the story. Then, when she wakes up, she has lovely thoughts and remarks, yet her sister's thoughts close the tale.
My Personal Conclusion
I love Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
Postscript: Thanks to Lorie Ann Grover for creating this Alice-themed collage for me!
Also check out the Alice in Wonderland entry in the Book-A-Day Almanac! (November 26th, 1865)