Review Blog

Dec 10 2015

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

cover image

Ill. by Rebecca Dautremer. Hodder Children's Books, 2015. ISBN 9781444930207
(Age: all) Highly recommended, Classics, Fantasy, Illustrative technique. 2015, the anniversary of the publication of the classic tale, Alice in Wonderland, is celebrated by Hodder with this large beautifully illustrated book destined to be a classic in itself.
The unabridged original story is there for new and returning readers, but presented with illustrations that threaten to drag the eyes away from the text. I reread the book, half remembering old stories read to me as a child, half remembering incidents from various books and film versions read and seen over the years, but hooked by the timeless tale of a girl taking a risk as she follows the White Rabbit down a long dark hole.
The familiar characters are there to entreat the readers, the adventure luring readers in as they follow Alice through a myriad of dreamlike sequences, the poems found there to be read out loud and read over again until lines are learnt.
The outstanding illustrations by Dautremer will make the reader gasp with excitement. One of Carroll's photos of the original Alice is in the back of the book, not the blonde girl often seen in illustrations drawn for the many publications of this book, but a brunette, used in this book to stunning effect. From the front cover showing long tendrils of hair falling over Alice's face to the last page, Alice is magnificently different. We see her sitting on the sofa at the start of her adventure, then seeming to wake on the last page as it finishes. After drinking the bottle with 'drink me' written on it, she grows to gigantic proportions and is illustrated from the angle of her feet, looking up to her head now dangerously close to the roof. This unusual perspective is one of many, as the characters are depicted off centre, and some given an intense closeup while others are depicted in ways unseen before. I love the caterpillar (p 50), and the gardeners painting the roses red (p 85), I adore the Red Queen (p 118) and the frequent pencil images. The panoply of stilts throughout the story is a recurring theme: stilts on which many creatures teeter (p 115-6), to the long trunks of the mushrooms (p 56-7) and Alice's long neck (p 58), the flamingo's long legs (p 91) and the long legs of the chairs at the table for the Mad Hatter's tea party (p 78-9) all often draw the eyes from the bottom of the page to the top. The illustrations dwarf those found in other renditions of this book, and create a magnificent tome to celebrate the sesquicentenary of its publication.
I imagine many children will receive this for Christmas, and libraries will put it on display in pride of place to promote and enhance their collection of classic tales and to showcase the prodigious talents of this illustrator.
For those in Victoria a display has been mounted to celebrate Alice's sesquicentenary at the museum.
Fran Knight

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