I requested and received a copy of this free from the publishers, in exchange for an honest review. All views are my own.
I love Alice in Wonderland. I love its eccentricity, its cleverness, its humour, its playfulness, its wit, its off-its-head-off-with-their-head-ness. And so, I was really excited to see some of today’s best children’s authors revisiting it in this short story collection.
Each story has something of the original that fans of Alice will love, it’s a real treat for those who’ve already read (and re-read) the original.
But each also brings with it its modern author’s distinct style, voice and choice of direction and theme, making it perfect for fans of these authors and/or as an introduction to Wonderland for a new readers.
I think Pamela Butchart’s ‘The Queen of Hearts and the Unwritten Rule’, for example, is a great story for new readers, and sits well in its position early on in the book. It gives a brilliant broad impression of Wonderland and brings it bang up to date at the same time with the introduction of Lil Queen, the Queen of Hearts tech-savvy, ultra-modern, next-big-thing-loving daughter.
Likewise, stories such as Patrice Lawrence’s ‘Roll of Honour’, Maz Evans’ ‘The Sensible Hatter’, or Lisa Thompson’s ‘The Knave of Hearts’ are great for honing in on particular characters/events from the book in new ways.
Just as it reconnects familiar readers with their favourite characters and events, it’s a great way to introduce these characters and Wonderland’s weird ways to newcomers.
I think the biggest surprise for me was Chris Smith’s ‘The Tweedle Twins and the Case of the Colossal Crow’, which I found myself chuckling all the way through.
I really enjoyed the way it was written, with lots of asides to the reader and a combination of both daft and dry humour – all of which made it perfect for a Wonderland tale.
So, I reached the end thinking “but who is this Chris Smith? What else have they written…and why haven’t I read it?” I googled of course and couldn’t believe what came up – Kid Normal! Co-authored with Greg James, I admit I’d always just dismissed it as popular, celebrity unfunny funny stuff…but I suspect I may have been…*whispers it*…wrong. Certainly if its written like this is, I was and it deserves a closer look!
Anyway back to Wonderland. Being a collection of stories, it will of course divide readers on which are the ‘best’. Everyone will have their own favourites, just as everyone will have their own favourite moments and characters from the original (and this will no doubt play into which of these we like most).
My own favourites, alongside The Tweedle Twins, were:
- ‘The Missing Book’ by Swapna Haddow I thought this really captured the absurdity and contrariness of Wonderland, as well as Carroll’s love of word play. Wonderfully Wonderland-ish.
- Plum Cakes at Dawn by Lauren St John I loved how Lauren St John evokes brilliantly the weirdness of Wonderland, while at the same time getting a very timely and urgent environmental message across. Those familiar with her work will appreciate how ‘her’ this is.
- Ina Out of Wonderland by Robin Stevens I loved the back story to this and how Robin drew on not just Alice, but it’s creation and creator, focusing on Carroll, the Liddell girls (the ‘real’ Alice and her sisters) and their Oxford home. I thought she very cleverly and creatively tied this to the original (I feel sure if you’re an Alice fan, you’ll absolutely what she does) but made it something new and brimming with a fiery, mould-breaking determination too.
That is the other thing I really liked about the collection – each story has a short introduction from the author detailing, for example, their inspiration, memories and favourite moments from the original book and setting the scene, which I found really interesting.
Again, Alice fans will likely recognise the sentiments in many of them while new readers may be encouraged to read or at least dip into the original to see what all the fuss is about!
This collection is perfect for old fans and new visitors to Wonderland alike. With a fabulous balance of nostalgia and modernity, there are plenty of old favourites with some new gems as well. It’s a collection that is a more than worthy tribute to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and is every bit as weird wondrous.