In 1862 Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a shy Oxford mathematician with a stammer, created a story about a little girl tumbling down a rabbit hole. Thus began the immortal adventures of Alice, perhaps the most popular heroine in English literature. Countless scholars have tried to define the charm of the Alice books–with those wonderfully eccentric characters the Queen of Hearts, Tweedledum, and Tweedledee, the Cheshire Cat, Mock Turtle, the Mad Hatter et al.–by proclaiming that they really comprise a satire on language, a political allegory, a parody of Victorian children’s literature, even a reflection of contemporary ecclesiastical history. Perhaps, as Dodgson might have said, Alice is no more than a dream, a fairy tale about the trials and tribulations of growing up–or down, or all turned round–as seen through the expert eyes of a child.
Source of legend and lyric, reference and conjecture, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
is for most children pure pleasure in prose. While adults try to decipher Lewis Carroll's putative use of complex mathematical codes in the text, or debate his alleged use of opium, young readers simply dive with Alice through the rabbit hole, pursuing "The dream-child moving through a land / Of wonders wild and new." There they encounter the White Rabbit, the Queen of Hearts, the Mock Turtle, and the Mad Hatter, among a multitude of other characters--extinct, fantastical, and commonplace creatures. Alice journeys through this Wonderland, trying to fathom the meaning of her strange experiences. But they turn out to be "curiouser and curiouser," seemingly without moral or sense.
For more than 130 years, children have reveled in the delightfully non-moralistic, non-educational virtues of this classic. In fact, at every turn, Alice's new companions scoff at her traditional education. The Mock Turtle, for example, remarks that he took the "regular course" in school: Reeling, Writhing, and branches of Arithmetic-Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision. Carroll believed John Tenniel's illustrations were as important as his text. Naturally, Carroll's instincts were good; the masterful drawings are inextricably tied to the well-loved story. (All ages) --Emilie Coulter