For so many readers, Lewis Carroll’s Alice books presented a glorious composition of word play, fantasy, and understated hilarity that could be compared to no others. Coupled with John Tenniel’s winsome illustrations, Carroll’s tales quickly became popular with adults and children, a status enjoyed to this day. In so many ways, the Alice books have been the perfect crossovers, with an irrepressible weirdness that can beguile the imagination and an undercurrent of political commentary and psychological menace that captures the most sophisticated readers.
This year, contemporary author Gregory Maguire takes us back to Wonderland with his own playful word play and fantastical imaginings. After Alice is not a sequel so much as an enhancement of the original tales, blending bits of Wonderland with Through the Looking Glass. The heroine is Alice’s friend, Ada, she of the ringlets mentioned in Carroll’s book. Ada wears a back brace and counts sensible Alice as her only friend. Her adventures begin when, in search of Alice, she finds herself swallowed by the ground and deposited in the sea. On the beach, Ada meets the first of many familiar friends, the Walrus and the Carpenter.
Maguire’s tale includes the parallel story of Alice’s older sister, Lydia, who is dozing over her book when Alice chases the White Rabbit. Lydia is at that impossible half child-half woman age, and the recent loss of their mother has increased her angst. A few real characters make cameo appearances: An elderly Charles Darwin visits Lydia’s father and a stuttering Charles Dodgson experiments with photography. Like his treatment of The Wizard of Oz story, Maguire creates magnificent personalities for minor characters.
Alice has made her way into the pages of YA literature many times. Sometimes she is scarcely recognizable, and other times she is overshadowed by her assorted sidekicks. Here a few YA books that take the reader back to Wonderland.