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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Top Five Alice: A Wonderland Ranking

Alice. Wonderland. It is interesting, is it not, that it is difficult to find anything particularly offensive about the book. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but when you search for possible problems with the text when viewed with 21st century eyes the most you’ll find are thoughts on whether or not Alice could be seen as a colonizer who is ultimately rejected by the people she’s invading. I suspect something could possibly be made out of the caterpillar, but for a book originally published in 1865, it has held up shockingly well over the years.  Carroll’s life has been cause for much speculation, of course, but that’s the worst that I’ve seen.

It all got me to thinking. If you had to rank your Top Five illustrated versions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, what would you choose? Honestly, this entire blog premise is probably more of a challenge to Monica Edinger to create her own list than anything else. My choices are fairly standard, all things considered, but I bet over at educating alice she could come up with a really rip-roaring selection. Have at it, Monica! In the meantime, here are my choices from five to my number one.

#5 – Helen Oxenbury

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Sometimes referred to disparagingly as “The GAP Alice”, Oxenbury made her Alice a bit younger than the ones you usually see. To my mind, this is the Intro to Alice. Plenty of pictures to get kids through some of the wordier bits and pieces. Plus no one does a slouch like Oxenbury.

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Published by Walker in a signed limited edition in 1999. Plus for Looking-Glass in 2005 Oxenbury won the Kate Greenaway Medal.

#4 – Robert Ingpen

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Ingpen goes a bit more cartoonish in this book than with his usual fare. I was pleased to see his take on the Cheshire Cat’s grin. And apparently it’s against the law to draw an Alice dodo with anything but human hands.

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Published by Walker Books 2009.

#3 – Arthur Rackham

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Not one of Rackham’s more popular books, but I’m more fond of his Alice than many others. She just seems to be her own person, with a distinct personality. She just oozes practicality. The cat was a surprise. I don’t think Rackham did many cats.

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Published by Heinemann in 1907.

#2 – Barry Moser

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Moser’s one of the few that I own and I treasure it. I know that when he illustrated Wizard of Oz he threw in all sorts of little details, like turning the Wicked Witch of the West into Nancy Reagan. I assume he did the same with his Alices, but I can’t be sure. What I do know is that it takes a special kind of perverted mind to turn the Cheshire Cat into a Rex. Well played, sir.

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Published in a limited edition by Pennyroyal in 1982.

And now, my number one pick . . .

#1 – John Tenniel

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Sometimes you stick with the original for good reason.

First editions published by Macmillan, London: Alice in 1865, Looking Glass in 1871

What are your favorites?

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About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.

Comments

  1. Ha! #hangmyheadinshame# for coining “Gap Alice.” A bit snarky, I admit. It is just the gentlest interpretation I know of. Im in Portugal so little tricky to give my list, but I can say for sure, top is Anthony Brown’s version. He really gets the surreal aspect of the tale. Sadly he never did Looking-glass.

  2. Anthony Browne that is.

  3. I’m also partial to Tove Jansson’s. Can see hers and some other interesting ones here: https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/07/07/best-illustrations-alice-in-wonderland/

  4. Leonard Kim says:

    Anna Bond (2015)

  5. Carl in Charlotte says:

    Thank you, Betsy! My favorite is also John Tenniel. No one captured the spirit of those books like he did. His illustrations are still the most fun to look at! And, as we all know, part of the reason Carroll wrote them was was for pure whimsy (which Tenniel captures so perfectly) but also to satirize the inane poems and sentiments of the time. Plus some of the self-important nonsense adults are constantly spouting. (some things don’t change!) Just look at Alice’s face on that cover–it almost shouts, “I’m so tired of listening to all you goofballs! I’m too politely brought up to be rude but I’ll sure be glad when I can get away from here.” That’s what all kids feel at some point (or many times!) in their lives. No one got it better than Tenniel and no one ever has.

  6. Oxenbury for being child friendly and lots of pictures. Browne for the surrealism. I remember being disturbed by the Duchess and the pig baby in Tenniel’s art.