Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known by his pen name Lewis Carroll, was born on January 27, 1832. He was the eldest of 11 children and painfully shy. The only time he didn’t stammer was when he was speaking to children. Although he started out as a lecturer in mathematics, his passion was writing children’s stories, full of fantasy, logical conundrums, and word play. Carroll also loved photography and children were his muses. Although some of his photographs featured scantily clad or naked children, the notion of Lewis Carroll as a pedophile or child abuser has never been proven. Just shy of his 66th birthday, Lewis Carroll came down with the flu and ended up with pneumonia that ended his life. His most famous literary work featured a young girl named Alice, a character inspired by one of his youngest friends and neighbors, the inquisitive and precocious Alice Liddell.
In honor of Lewis Carroll’s 187th birthday, we would like to celebrate with a reading list of books that celebrate the whimsy, folly, and fantasy found in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass.” The authors on this list have an obvious affection for Carroll’s literary gifts, if not his characters and their cohorts.
“There are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents, and only one for birthday presents, you know.” Lewis Carroll
- Gregory Maguire’s “After Alice,” looks at Alice’s disabled friend, Ada, and her trip down the rabbit hole to find Alice and return safely home. Expect mirth and mayhem along the way.
- Christina Henry’s series, “The Chronicles of Alice” logically begins with “Alice,” and that’s where the logic unravels. Locked in an institution, a woman spends all of her time trying to make sense of her life; did she or did she not attend a tea party with a white rabbit? Once she escapes, she must find her sanity and her way back, although something darker and more menacing is at play here.
- Melanie Benjamin’s “Alice I Have Been,” is a fictional account of the life, loves, and losses of Alice Liddell. I am not usually a big fan of historical fiction, but this one had me hooked from the first page.
- Vanessa Tait’s, “The Looking Glass House,” is made all the more intriguing by the fact that the author herself is the great-granddaughter of Alice Liddell! Although the story is a work of fiction, it is inspired by family stories and photographs in the author’s own collection.
There are so many fantastic reads in YA that celebrate Lewis Carroll’s Alice, that it was hard to narrow down my favorites to just a few:
- Frank Beddor’s “The Looking Glass Wars” trilogy is a pure, adrenaline-fueled adventure featuring Alyss Heart who knows all too well that Wonderland is real and not a place for children or the faint of heart.
- “Beware the Little White Rabbit,” is a collection of short stories for any fan of Alice and her adventures, but is a particularly good choice for any reluctant teen readers or those who don’t have the time to delve into a lengthy novel.
- Marissa Meyer is known for her best-selling novels, one and all homages to fairy tale heroines, but none is more entertaining than “Heartless,” the story of the young woman destined to become Alice’s nemesis, the vitriolic Queen of Hearts.
- G. Howard’s “Splintered” trilogy features Alyssa Gardner, a descendant of Alice Liddell and is an incredibly dark and twisted tale, proving once and for all that Wonderland exists, but it’s no place for unattended children.
Finally, if you are looking for a book for your kids, you may want to stay away from Carroll’s original stories as they can bring on nightmares! Instead, pick up a copy of Robert Paul Weston’s, “Zorgamazoo.”
Written in rhyme, this story is filled with fanciful imagery and adventure featuring the incomparable Katrina Katrell. I dare you not to enjoy this more than your kids do.