CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 6 . . . . November 12, 1999
"...and what is the use of a book," thought Alice, "without pictures or conversations?"In his academic role as Charles Dodgson, Oxford lecturer in mathematics and philosophy, Lewis Carroll was probably well acquainted with such books. On the other hand, as an experienced storyteller, he was well aware of those elements in a book necessary for the delight of young readers. In the years since its original publication in 1865, Carroll's masterful fantasy, coupled with John Tennial's black and white illustrations, has become a classic piece of children's literature. The incredible creatures who inhabit Carroll's Wonderland have attracted more than one hundred illustrators, many of them gifted artists who have created their own unique versions of the Alice books. According to one such artist, Michael Hogue (illustrator of The Velveteen Rabbit and other classics) whose illustrated version of Alice in Wonderland was published in 1985, children today are so much more visually sophisticated than those living in Victorian times, that it behooves each new generation of illustrators to reinterpret the classics for each new generation of children. To agree with Hogue is to admit the legitimacy of the Walt Disney version, which, to the dismay of nostalgic readers brought up on Tenniel's illustrations, has become the "real" Alice in Wonderland to a whole generation.
Whether the potential buyer of this special edition of the Alice books regards Disney as defiinitive, or holds fast to Tenniel's version, the question for librarians (and other adults who buy books for children) is as follows. Can an expenditure of $50.00 for this very glossy and exceedingly beautiful special centenary edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass be justified in a time when books are more and more expensive, and book budgets ( particularly school library ones) are diminishing?
There is no doubt that this edition commemorating the 1998 centenary of Lewis Carroll's death, replete with extras such as the author's letter to all child-readers of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, his 1867 Christmas Greeting, his 1876 Easter Greeting and the text of "Wasp in a Wig," which was originally intended to follow the eighth chapter of Through the Looking Glass, is a very special one. As well as the sixteen Tenniel pictures coloured by Victorian artist Harry Theaker, the remaining illustrations are coloured by artist Diz Wallis, making this single volume the very first edition in which both of Carroll's stories have appeared together in full colour. With its exquisite gold dust-jacket, its glossy pages, large well-spaced print and many additions, it is a very heavy book, a sort of "coffee-table" Alice, difficult to hold for reading-aloud and more suitable for a browse than a cozy independent read. School librarians wishing to buy Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and/or Through the Looking Glass may well find the cost of this volume prohibitive, and opt for single, easier to handle versions of the Alice books.
Recommended with reservations.
Valerie Nielsen is a retired teacher-librarian who lives in Winnipeg.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.