In my recent Horn Book Magazine article, “Alice, the Transformer” I described my approach to reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to contemporary 4th graders. After finishing the book we always have a tea party and the children do some sort of response to the book. This year I invited the children to write to Lewis Carroll or one of their favorite characters in the book. The results were terrific. You can read a selection of the letters in their entirety here, but to give you a taste here are a few excerpts (frequently done in a font based on Lewis Carroll’s own handwriting and sometimes in purple, an ink color he often used):
My name is N and I am a big fan of yours [the Mad Hatter]. I love to drink tea, my favorite tea is chamomile, and jasmine. My sister and I have tea together almost every day.
Oh Bill [the Lizard], I have read Alice in Wonderland and I liked it a lot. You were my favorite character because I felt so bad for you for all the things the other characters did to you.
I am writing you [Alice] because I was outraged by the way you behaved in Wonderland. One of the ways you behaved badly was by making rude remarks…. You were also physically mean. LIKE WHEN YOU KICKED POOR BILL THE LIZARD UP A CHIMNEY LIKE HE WAS A WORTHLESS ROCK!!!!!!!!! ”
It is an interesting book, and it has a great plot. Except, it is completely unfair to you [the Queen of Hearts]! This is why I am writing. Alice is always being rude to you. She says, “How should I know?” Then, “It’s no business of MINE.” The nerve. Your juries are also lazy and not well educated. In fact, they are stupid. Plus, your executioner never obeys your orders! He refused to execute the Cheshire Cat. Most importantly, the book portrays you as a crazy, evil ruler! You have my sympathies.
Check out my latest article in the May/June Horn Book, “Alice, the Transformer.” I had fun looking at the ways the little girl has been constantly reinvented over the 150 years of her literary existence. The whole issue, by the way, is great!
Director Tim Burton, who will helm a new film adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland stories, said that he will stay true to the stories’ essence.
“It’s just such a classic, and the imagery is so surreal,” Burton said in an interview while promoting his latest film, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. “I don’t know; I’ve never seen a version where I feel like they got it all. It’s a series of weird adventures, and to try to do it where it works as a movie will be interesting.” From SCI FI Wire.
Thank you SO MUCH to bookshelves of doom for the tip.
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One of my favorite teaching units of the year is the Many Faces of Alice unit. I begin by reading the book aloud, have the kids take a close look at the various illustrators, and then ask them to do a project of their own. When Roxanne Feldman came to Dalton she came up with the wonderful idea of putting a complete kid- illustrated version of the book on-line; we did this in 1998 and in 1999.
In 2000 I began having the children do Toy Theater productions. I bought a beautiful toy theater at Pollack’s Toy Theater Museum in London , had the kids create scenery and puppets, a script, and we filmed the results and put them online here, here, here. and here.
Then last year Roxanne came up with a new idea — to have the kids do a sort of book trailer — that is, they’d do a series of drawings and then a voice-over. The result wouldn’t be quite stop-motion animation (as that was way too time-consuming), but no longer a series of still pages either. We didn’t put last year’s version on-line, but this year’s is here on our class blog. Do visit and comment! I’m thrilled with the results and I think the kids are too.
A parent at my school alerted me to a forthcoming film, “Phoebe in Wonderland.” Evidently it is full of references from my favorite book! Here are a few photos of Felicity Huffman (of “Desperate Housewives”) as the Red Queen.