Writer Lynn Murphy gives a completely different perspective on the classic Alice in Wonderland. Instead of Alice’s point of view, this story gives the point of view of all the other characters in Wonderland. Young reader Maddy falls into the story of Alice in Wonderland and then interviews all of the chief characters in turn. They all pretty much deny the Lewis Carroll version of the story.
As an Alice fan, I had mixed feelings about this one. I’m not entirely sure this is the version I prefer, if I have to choose only one. Even so, there were many things I enjoyed about this book, and many places that made me smile or laugh. This version of Wonderland has much of the “madness” taken out of it as well as the dangers while still holding on to some wonder and charm. I actually think it would be a preferable Wonderland to visit without worrying about having your head chopped off or more nonsense than you can handle.
I also appreciated that the writer was very familiar with the original, its classic illustrations and several of its more famous movie versions, making different references to these.
And though this is still a fantasy, there are also a few interesting true background facts thrown in such as how it is that hat makers were thought to be mad or in danger of becoming mad or how John Tenniel was inspired to draw the Mad Hatter.
All of the Wonderland characters that Maddy meets have long aristocratic names and have hidden talents and interests that are completely absent from the original version. The Mad Hatter’s name is Aldus Broderick Crookshanks McGillicutty-Smythe, and the White Rabbit enjoys oil painting. All of the characters are described in a unique way as to their appearance and manner of dress which doesn’t agree with either the Tenniel illustrations or Disney portrayals of the characters. They also express themselves in a way that seems appropriate to 1800s characters, although they are, apparently, aware of some modern trends and technology.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes.
“And, of course, I never miss the Zumba class the Mock Turtle teaches on Thursdays.” — the White Rabbit
When Maddy questions this, he says, “How else do you think we all stay fit enough for quadrilles and caucus racing?”
“I had argued with my mother that morning and then stubbed four of my toes on the front door” — The Caterpillar.
“Poor Carl, he is portrayed as a surly, unpleasant and unattractive sort of servant, when in reality, for a fish footman, he is rather handsome and keeps his scales clean. He never smells fishy either, which I assure you is a fine thing when your servants are of the fish variety.” — the Duchess
“Should you be surprised, having spoken to so many others, that there was no singing at the table of ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Bat?’ Oh, it’s a song we all know, of course, but no one was singing it on that particular day.” — The Dormouse.
I’m so glad “Twinkle Twinkle Little Bat” is part of the Wonderland culture even in this version. The Dormouse interview might be my favorite part of this book.
Maddy tells the March Hare that kids today are not generally very interested in classic literature and, instead, enjoy Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Captain Underpants.
Finally, the Hare said, “What kind of writer names his character after unmentionables?”
I appreciate a lot of the nonsense in the original Alice as a kind of clever nonsense, but there is one scene in the original book which perplexes and bothers me, because it doesn’t seem to serve a purpose. That is the scene where a baby the Duchess is holding transforms into a pig. In this version of the story, what happens here is much more rational.
The croquet game in this book is still whimsical but without any abuse to animals, although I like to believe that the animals in Wonderland don’t mind participating in this silly version of the game. Also, all of the playing card characters get to keep their heads in Murphy’s version of the story.
At the conclusion, Maddy leaves it up to you which version you think is the true one.
In her afterword, Murphy explains that she is an art teacher at a K-12 school and that she was inspired to write the book after the school held an exhibition with an Alice the Wonderland theme. She discovered that many of the teachers and students did not like the book or Alice. Although she had always enjoyed the book, her mind began to imagine a different version of things.
Sometimes, when someone is trying to get to know you, you are asked what your favorite book is. It’s really hard for a bibliophile to name just one favorite book, at least, I think so. I named this post “a few of my favorite books,” because I couldn’t narrow it down to one and it so nicely references the “Favorite Things” song, but is a list of 19 really a few? I think it is more than a few and more than several. Hhhmm…. I did try to narrow it down and it’s a significant list, but, at the same time, I feel I may have left out some very nice books, but if I left out some very nice books, I suppose there is more food for future posts. I do think this list does include a number of books that are special to me.
A few of these are sentimental. As a young tweenager, I actually read Anne of Avonlea, the second book in the series, before I read Anne of Green Gables. As a young girl, I remember being introduced to all sorts of nature vocabulary in the descriptive passages. I have since read all of the books in the Anne series. I find the character of Anne Shirley very relatable, minus the temper and the extroversion. I can relate to her imagination and romanticism. Can you? Are you perhaps a “kindred spirit?”
My mother read some passages from The Wind in the Willows aloud to me when I was a young girl, and she was so skilled at acting and reading aloud that it was very entertaining. I later carried on the tradition with my oldest nephew. I remember asking him, “Are you enjoying this?” and he answered, “More than you know!” I just loved this world of what C.S. Lewis would call “dressed animals.” Mole was my favorite character and, very likely, what inspired me to pick a mole as the hero of my children’s story, The Journey of Digory Mole. You can find me reading from my book here.
The only Winnie the Pooh story I had as a child was a Disney illustrated picture book of the story where Pooh is stuck in the doorway to Rabbit’s house. You can find me reading this same story from my Kindle here. Though it had the Disney illustrations, all the classic original language from A.A. Milne was unchanged. I didn’t read the full set of Pooh books until I was an adult, but the stories are so witty and wonderful that they can really be enjoyed at any age.
“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story at all.” — C.S. Lewis
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is another special book to me from childhood. Perhaps, some parts were explained to me, but I think it was easy for me to understand some parallels to Christian teaching. I loved the characters of Aslan and Lucy, and this fascinating, often charming, world that could be reached through the wardrobe, and, of course, there were more “dressed animals.” Though I’ve read the entire Narnia series, my favorite of the series will always be the first one.
My father often said that his favorite book was Anne Frank’s diary. It seems to me that I may have seen a film adaptation from the book before reading it myself when I was about the age of Anne when she began writing it. There are so many profound thoughts from a young girl in this book, and, of course, it made me sympathize with all that she and her family endured.
So, my introduction to Alice in Wonderland was also the Disney version and a Disney illustrated picture book that I memorized before I was even reading myself, just from having it read to me so many times. I read the full novel and Through the Looking Glass in high school and a few more times since then, the last time being a version that was parallel in French and English. I know many find it a strange book, and there are many theories as to what inspired the author, including opium and migraine headaches, but I find all the nonsense witty and imaginative, although there are a few story points I find inexplicable.
Believe it or not, I first got acquainted with Pilgrim’s Progress as a flannelgraph story when I was a child, although I later read the book. Pilgrim’s struggles and triumphs on his way to the Celestial City are very meaningful to me. This was another influence as I was writing The Journey of Digory Mole. (By the way, Digory has some new adventures coming.) I recently saw an animated film version of the story which I recommend.
Jane Eyre is another favorite. I do seem to like 19th century lit, particularly Brit lit from this period. It has its mysterious, almost creepy elements, which make it seem akin to a Gothic novel. I always feel like a romance novel should have suspense, something which seems to be lacking in many that reuse common and cliche themes. This classic has suspense, mystery and romance.
Charles Dickens and Jane Austen are two of my favorite writers, so it is hard to choose just one favorite from their books, but I chose to feature Pride and Prejudice and Oliver Twist in the list. Both writers made a little commentary on their times. For that reason, I think, Austen’s books are more than just romances but commentaries on human behavior, character, and sometimes, social issues. Dickens certainly did that as well. I love what a well-rounded writer he is, so wonderful at writing both drama and comedy and interweaving them into one story and so fantastic at creating characters and painting scenes with words. One of his books, Nicholas Nickleby, even spurred on some social change as a cruel schoolmaster in the book was somewhat based on a real one who lost his job as a result.
Agatha Christie was a prolific mystery writer, not all of her books featuring either Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple. I became a big fan of Poirot, the character, and also find, David Suchet, to be my favorite Poirot actor. I really wasn’t sure which of her books, if I had to choose only one, to feature in this list. And Then There Were None, which is neither a Poirot or Marple novel, is often featured as a must-read mystery in various lists. It is one of her more exciting and thrilling plots where characters are eliminated one by one. I picked Hercule Poirot’s Christmas and just remember it being a memorable and enjoyable read.
I discovered P.G. Wodehouse almost accidentally on pagebypagebooks.com, and I’m sure glad I did. I love his comical Jeeves & Wooster series with Wooster, the somewhat goofy and carefree aristocrat and his genius valet, Jeeves, who gets Wooster and his buddies out of all sorts of ridiculous predicaments. The Code of the Woosters is, in part, a lot of nonsense over a cow creamer. Just the fact that a cow creamer plays a key role in the plot ought to suggest some humor.
You already know I like a romance story with suspense, and Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters certainly was that. I read through this rather long book of 500 to 600 pages while on a road trip without having any idea that the author died before writing the conclusion. I must have groaned out loud when I came to that understanding. It certainly couldn’t have ended at more of a cliffhanger. Thankfully, later, I watched the BBC miniseries, which, I think, created a satisfying conclusion to which the author was building.
Arthur Conan Doyle, of course, was one of the very early influencers or even creators of the mystery genre, so I couldn’t leave Sherlock Holmes off this list. Sherlock is certainly an interesting character, in his way of figuring things from careful scrutiny and his powers of deduction. Things are even more mysterious when put through faithful Watson’s narration.
Huckleberry Finn has gotten a bit of a bad rap and has even been banned in some places for its use of the “N” word. The “N” word might be racist, but the overall message of the book is quite the opposite. Huck uses it, because he is reflecting the culture around him and probably doesn’t know any other term to use for an African-American. He does befriend Jim and helps him escape slavery. He is sometimes conflicted about helping Jim and wonders if it’s wrong, but this is, of course, because of how he’s been taught by Aunt Polly and the surrounding culture. In the end, what he does is noble.
I really need to read The Girl of the Limberlost again, because I do not remember it well anymore, other than the fact that I really loved it. Gene Stratton-Porter was a naturalist, and her love of nature comes out in all of her writings. The Girl of the Limberlost is really a coming of age story where the main character, Elnora Comstock, collects moths to pay for her education. More recently, I read her book, Laddie, which I also really enjoyed. What I remember most from Limberlost is the beautiful descriptions of nature and music. I hope to read more from this author.
I first got introduced to Michael Phillips in reading the Stonewycke series, which he wrote alongside Judith Pella. Both writers wrote many books together as well as separately. That series was my first introduction to Christian historical fiction. My next favorite series from him (so far) is The Secret of theRose set during World War II with romance and characters acting nobly to help the Jewish people during that time.
Did I overwhelm you with all of my many favorites? What are some of yours?