Tag Archives: Lewis Carroll

In the Classroom: Letters to Alice and Others

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.

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Alice, the Transformer

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!

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Reading Those Old Handwritten Letters and Diaries

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My ninth Rule. When you get to the end of a notesheet, and find you have more to say, take another piece of paper–a whole sheet, or a scrap, as the case may demand: but whatever you do, don’t cross! Remember the old proverb ”Cross-writing makes cross reading”. “The old proverb?” you say, inquiringly. “How old?” Well, not so very ancient, I must confess. In fact, I’m afraid I invented it while writing this paragraph! Still, you know, “old” is a comparative term. I think you would be quite justified in addressing a chicken, just of of the shell, as “Old boy!” when compared with another chicken, that was only half-out! (The Reverend Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, in Eight or Nine Wise Words About Letter Writing)

This came to mind as I read Megan Marshall’s fascinating Slate article, “How to decipher authors’ handwriting” in which she addresses crossing among many other things. Highly recommended. Thanks to bookninja for the tip.

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