Category Archives: Lewis Carroll

Something Else that Happened on July 4th

 

July 4 (F) Atkinson brought over to my rooms some friends of his, a Mrs and Miss Peters, of whom I took photographs, and who afterwards looked over my album and staid [sic] to lunch. They then went off to the Museum, and Duckworth and I made an expedition up to Godstow with the three Liddells [Alice and her two sisters]; we had tea on the bank there, and did not reach Ch. Ch. [Christ Church] again till quarter past eight, when we took them on to my rooms to see my collections of micro-photographs, and restored them to the Deanery just before nine.

[On which occasion I told them the fairy-tale of “Alice’s Adventures Under Ground,” which I undertook to write out for Alice, and which is now finished (as to the text) though the pictures are not yet nearly done.  February 10, 1863]

[nor yet. March 12, 1864]

[“Alice’s Hour in Elfland”? June 9, 1864]

[“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”? June 28]

From Charles Dodgson’s (aka Lewis Carroll) diary entry of July 4, 1862 with notes he came back and added later as he was working on the book. (From volume 4 of the Lewis Carroll Society’s edition annotated by Edward Wakeling.)

 

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll, Other

Gilles Bachelet’s MRS. WHITE RABBIT

In case you don’t know me, I’m a Carrollian; that means, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass are beloved books of mine. This blog is named after this obsession and the shrinking Alices in the banner are ones I drew long ago in my days as an aspiring illustrator. (More can be seen here.) I speak, write, do, and seek out all things Alice all the time. My current WiP is centered around the real story behind the fictional ones. And because of this obsession I’m always eager to see new interpretations of Carroll’s characters, setting, and words. Sadly, too many miss hugely (Tim Burton’s Alice films are the latest travesties), but some really capture Carroll’s wit in unique and original ways. Such a one is French book creator Gilles Bachelet in his delightful oversized picture book, Mrs. White Rabbit.  I picked up a copy of this several years ago in Germany and was over-the-top excited when publisher Anita Eerdmans told me that Eerdmans was bringing it out in the US.

The text is Mrs. White Rabbit’s tired, frustrated, teeth-clenched, and hilariously dry diary entries. These are wittily brought to life in illustrations large and small. There’s her oldest Beatrix who, after considering a wide variety of occupations, has decided she wants to be a supermodel and is spending all her time on the scale. A double page spread shows the worried mother’s 100 different recipes for carrots with the sad note: “nothing will do.” Alice makes an appearance (we see the poor woman vacuuming around her huge foot) and Mr. White Rabbit suggests hiring her as a babysitter. “Another one of his brilliant ideas? Who wants their children looked after by someone who doesn’t know how to stay a reasonable size?”

Poor, poor Mrs. White Rabbit whose husband is far too busy at the palace to help. She sadly writes : “My life is quite different from what I once dreamed about.  I would have loved to be a writer. To invent stories full of marvelous places and extraordinary characters. But how could I find inspiration in my dull everyday life?”  Of course, the illustrations show both the mundane and the marvelous.

This book is wonderful to look at — the illustrations are full of references to the original book as well as full of other wry tweaks playing off the text. There are great easter eggs through out; for example, I’m guessing the twins Gibert and George are a reference to the real-life artist pair. While those who know the original story will delight in this clever take, those who don’t will also enjoy the detail art and understandably grumpy view of this fairy tale rabbit spouse.

At the end, while Mr. White Rabbit rushes to fix things with his wife — the final image does not suggest he is successful. Perhaps in the sequel — Mrs. White Rabbit Runs Away?— we could see her having some of those fun adventures she dreamed of!

2 Comments

Filed under Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll, Review

“Alice and Her Intended Audience” at the Lewis Carroll Society of North America

9780393245431_p0_v3_s192x300.jpg

This past Saturday I was privileged to present “Alice and Her Intended Audience” at the Fall Meeting of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America along with three former students. After giving an overview of my teaching approach to the book — consisting of reading aloud, games, poetry recitations, tea parties, caucus races, and more — I turned the floor over to the students. First Jake, now in 7th grade, read his “Chaper 5 1/2: House of the Rabbits.” He explain that he had wanted to explore Carroll’s language in his own way. The result is a brilliant and unique creation; he begins by making the White Rabbit a female, provides generaous adventure, and some elegant original poetry as well. I hope the story can be published in total one day (perhaps in the Knight Letter?) for all to see. He was followed by 5th graders Zach and Katalin who described their favorite parts of the unit from last year (mostly playing croquet and the caucus race) and then performed their part of last year’s radio play. The three were the hit of the meeting!

For those in attendance and others interested here are a few links:

1 Comment

Filed under Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll Society of North America’s Fall Meeting

The LCSNA will be holding its fall meeting at NYU’s Bobst Library on Saturday, October 15th. With some former students (two 5th graders and a 7th grader), I will doing a presentation on “Alice and her Intended Audience of Children Today.” The children will give their perspectives of their experiences with the book while in my 4th grade class. Then the 5th graders will do a live performance of their section of last year’s class’s radio play while the 7th grader will read an additional chapter he wrote for the book the year he was in my class, explaining just what inspired him. The other presentations look great too. From the LCSNA website:

The exciting Fall 2016 meeting will take place at the Washington Square campus of New York University (home of the Berol Collection of Lewis Carroll, and the LCSNA archives) on October 15th. Fales Library director Marvin Taylor will speak about the exhibition they mounted in the Bobst as part of the Alice150 festivities, “‘Go Ask Alice’: Alice, Wonderland, and Popular Culture.” Monica Edinger, keeper of the well-regarded blog “Educating Alice,” and some of her students will give us a presentation about her use of Alice in her elementary classroom. Matt Demakos will speak about his research concerning “The Walrus and the Carpenter.” Children’s Literature specialist Dr. Jan Susina will give a talk tentatively titled “Alice in the Academy: The Alice Books in the College Curriculum,” Dana Walrath will talk on her illustrated novel Aliceheimers and her use of Alice in making sense of the world of Alzheimer’s. Read the full agenda for details.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

Neil Gaiman Does Jabberwocky

Leave a comment

Filed under Lewis Carroll, Neil Gaiman

FILIJ: Mexico’s International Children’s Book Festival

logo_filij

I am just back from participating in  FILIJ, Mexico’s International Fair of Children and Youth Books and I am just floored by the experience. Run by Conaculta, Mexico’s governmental agency for the arts, it is BEA, ALA, NCTE, and the National Book Festival all in one glorious ten day event with over 300,000 people attending.  You can get a taste in this photo gallery. They (this is translated by google so is probably not too great) wish:

to encourage the habit of reading among children and young people of Mexico; and bring together publishers, booksellers, distributors, librarians, teachers and specialists, in order to raise the quality and quantity of publications circulating in the Mexican market. Also aims to compare experiences, promote exchange with other countries and bring the public to national and international issues.

expositores

The festival was a vibrant place of tents full of books to see and buy, entertainments such as rock concerts and puppet shows, and tons of children and people eagerly enjoying books and stories. Among the events for professionals are a National Meeting for Booksellers (and, yes, the photo is of Laura Vaccaro Seeger and Neal Porter who participated last year), a National Conference of Librarians, an International Seminar (for 600 participants:) on the Promotion of Reading, and 5 hour Master Classes on Writing and Illustration.  There were also school visits, all sorts of performances (just wandering around I saw a puppet show and a rock concert), and a huge area of workshops for children. You can get a taste of the magnitude of the festival by looking at this brochure that includes a map of the festival as well as a listing of all the publishers and a schedule of events.

Even before I got to the festival grounds I had an inkling that this was a big event for all, seeing this poster for it in the city center:

IMG_2077

And once at the fair grounds I just enjoyed the energy. I was there only on weekdays, but am told you can barely move on the weekends.

IMG_2127 (There were so many tents full of books! This may look empty, but it is not. Just liked the Peppa painting on this particular tent.)

IMG_2126(This was a rock concert.)

IMG_2125

(This was a lovely cafe, but I’m afraid the warm orange of the walls came out rather dark in this photo of mine. In the back you can see one of the delightful posters that were all around the place. I believe there was a contest to get the commission to do these posters.)

Outside the festival,  I did a presentation on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to an attentive group of fourth graders at the Colegio Heraldos de México. They had prepared for my visit by watching both the Disney and Tim Burton’s movies, prepared questions, and created drawings and other decorations for my visit. The children’s English was fabulous — they seemed to follow my presentation with ease and asked thoughtful and carefully constructed questions. At the end I was surprised when they all wanted me to sign copies of Alice in Wonderland, personal autograph books, and paper.  So I did so as Lewis Carroll’s proxy! And then they gave me gifts — mostly chocolate, but also a book, and an amazing folk art clay statue of the Virgin Mary. They had never had an author visit before so it was a very big deal. For me too! My thanks especially to the Mexican Macmillan folk (among them Renato Aranda and Mariana Mendia – – a fellow Alice fan ) who took care of everything beautifully.

B2QKxVIIUAAg6k5

B2QkizgCMAAMQOE

Afterwards we went to the Museo Frida Kahlo (La Casa Azul where I’d first been years ago) and then to a fabulous lunch on the Coyoacan Zocalo followed by ice cream. I was moved by the candles for the 43 slain students, one of the many observations and demonstrations I saw while in Mexico City.

candles

We were also in Coyoacan one of the nights for a lovely dinner with local authors and publishing folk. While walking about we stopped at the Centro Cultural Eleno Garro, a fabulous bookstore in an historic building with trees inside and flying lit books in the children’s section.

IMG_2107

IMG_2110

My talk for the symposium, also on Alice, went very well. The 600 listeners were generous, attentive, and had some excellent questions. I had observed one of my fellow presenters, illustrator Serge Bloch, a few days before so was prepared for the experience of simultaneous translation, especially when the audience reacted a few beats late to anything amusing. This is a shot from the auditorium during Serge’s presentation which will give a taste of what mine looked like.

IMG_2098

 Over the week I was there I met so many interesting people (a complete list of speakers is here) and especially enjoyed chatting with Bart Moeyaert, Serge Bloch, and Gonzola Frasca. And then there were my fellow-native-English speakers, the Australian writer John Marsden with his wife Chris, and the UK Chicken House publisher (and Harry Potter editor)  Barry Cunningham.  We spent our final day together visiting Teotihuacan and followed by a lovely leisurely lunch that included ant eggs and crickets (at a restaurant with a lawn on one wall). Quite tasty, I should say though I admit found it hard to put aside my cultural squeamishness.

My great thanks to Conculta and Karen Coeman for inviting me (and to Betsy Bird for suggesting that I could do a good Lewis Carroll tribute). Karen Coeman is the person who put the whole thing together and did so splendidly with such poise no matter what. I last saw her when she showed up at 6 AM yesterday at our hotel to be sure we all made it off at various times to the airport without difficulty. She is a class act that Karen! Thanks to her team including the fabulous Diego Sanchez Moreno and Orly Rosales as well as that committed and helpful group of volunteers who took care of everything for us.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

A Victorian Wild Thing, Lewis Carroll

I admit to a particular fondness for subversive books and so Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, and Peter Sieruta’s Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature would have been right up my alley even if I hadn’t known the three authors long before the book came into being. And so I was pleased as punch when Betsy and Jules invited me to answer a few questions about someone who created my favorite subversive book, Lewis Carroll.

We know that you’ve done a fair amount of research on Alice in Wonderland in your spare time so let’s find out some stories folks might not know very well.  In fact, let’s start at the very beginning.  Lewis Carroll.  We know that name was a pen name and that he had a penchant for early photography.  What don’t we tend to know about him?

The mythology around the creation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland centers on Carroll’s friendship with the real Alice Liddell and her two sisters. What has been completely overlooked is that the girls had an older brother, Harry, who was also one of Carroll’s good friends. Among the children of the head of the Oxford college where Carroll was a mathematics instructor, it was the nine-year-old Harry whom Carroll befriended originally. He took Harry boating, tutored him in math, to chapel, and so on. The friendship was reciprocated in spades; Harry was known to follow the young man around like an eager puppy. However, he soon went off to boarding school as was typical for boys of his time and class, leaving behind his three sisters who were educated at home by a governess. And so it was that Alice and her two sisters became the most famous of Carroll’s many child friends with Harry quite forgotten.

The relationship between Alice and Carroll has been the source of much speculation.  Few people pause to wonder what happened to her when she grew up, though.  What did she do with her life?

It seems to have been typical of her time and class. At age twenty-eight she married Reginald Hargreaves in Westminster Abbey and had three sons, one of whom she named Caryl. While she always denied it you have to wonder if she was being subversive and was indeed naming him after Carroll. In 1932 for the centenary of Carroll’s birth she traveled to New York City where Columbia University gave her an honorary doctorate.  A delightful and completely fictional imagining of this event is Dennis Potter’s movie  Dreamchild.

It’s hard to picture the book without also picturing the original illustrations.  Are there any stories there?

The first edition of the book came out in July 1865, but was recalled when Tenniel informed Carroll that he was unhappy with the print quality of the illustrations. So the books were recalled and all who had received presentation copies were asked to return them. The rejected copies were sent to hospitals and other institutions. The handful that exist today are the most desired by collectors and the most expensive. After illustrating Looking-Glass Tenniel declined to illustrated any more of Carroll’s work leading many to suspect the relationship between the two had been a difficult one, but who knows?

Various adaptations of the Alice books have made their way into television shows and feature films.  What’s your favorite Alice adaptation?

I’m still waiting for a completely successful one. So far I’ve liked parts of different ones, but I don’t think any work completely. One that I think actually does a lot quite well is Disney. I dislike his framing story — especially the end with the frightened Alice running back home as the book Alice is not fearful at all. However, many scenes are just wonderful, say the Walrus and the Carpenter.

I get a kick out of Betty Boop in Blunderland.

And I also quite like Alice at the Palace perhaps because Alice is played and sung by Meryl Streep!

But I’m still waiting for a great one.

Is there anything else about the book that you think folks are generally unaware of?

Just that it is a really fun and whimsical book and has an unfortunate reputation as being unduly dark. What it is is deeply subversive, especially for the original Victorian child readers. He makes great fun of so many aspects of their lives, say the didactic poetry they had to recite — the poems in the books are mostly parodies of dreadfully instructive ones Victorian children had to memorize and recite —  as well as what they had to learn and how they had to behave. He respected children enormously and it comes through in the books. I urge people who have been dubious about the appeal of the book for children today to give it another look. Kids who go for other subversive books (Lemony Snicket’s come to mine) and/or those that play with language are really going to like these given the chance.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll