Alice in Wonderland at 150: a Booklist (2)
After yesterday’s list that focused on Macmillan publications, here is the second part of the list, all of which are illustrated by a variety of illustrators.
Original text by Lewis Carroll
Browne is king of the surrealist art references (he is particularly fond of Magritte) so one can only imagine what fun it must have been for him to tackle such a surreal story. And surrealist references are here aplenty (including Magritte’s L’homme au journal), as well as a few primates, you will be glad to hear. The details in some of the plates are quite fascinating but this is definitely one for slightly older readers, at least in order for them to fully appreciate the quite complex and intricate artwork. There is so much richness in Browne’s work, each look at the artwork reveals a detail one had not noticed before. Quite fascinating.
You can read more about Anthony Browne’s creative process for this book here.
If you are after an edition that will appeal to adults, this stunning edition illustrated by Bulgarian artist Iassen Ghiuselev is most definitely the one for you. The book itself is beautifully designed, with the quirky addition of a “read me” label on the ribbon marker. The artwork is dark, muted and monochromatic, using several colours but more particularly an incredibly effective ochre. This Alice is rather sullen-looking, and there is none of the happy-crazy Wonderland; rather it takes the slight menace of such times as the Middle Ages . The artwork has an unusual texture (some of the information on the dusk jacket mentions gouache on wood as one of the techniques). There is definitely an air of Escher in Ghiuselev’s work, particularly his take on architecture and perspective. A wonderful edition for anyone looking for an unusual Alice.
Ingpen’s take on Alice is possibly the most classical of this selection; with over 70 illustrations, it is quite an incredible collection of artwork . Ingpen’s style gives a fuzzy-like quality to each scene and this is emphasised by the muted colours he uses. Without being exactly dark, the artwork leaves the reader with a feeling of having been in a very odd dream, which of course is perfectly fitting for the story. This is emphasised also by the parchment-colour background of the pages, and the use of pencil sketches as well as full colour illustrations, which almost mimicks coming in and out of consciousness. This is a lovely gift edition which might be more appreciated by slightly older readers.
This volume includes an essay by Russell Ash, ‘The Original Alice’.
There is something really fascinating about Tove Jannson’s version of Wonderland. In fact there are almost two distinctive styles within the book – the black and white sketches, sometimes naive, sometimes haunting and the full colour illustrations in which the reader will catch glimpses of her Moominesque world, in all its surreal beauty. The use of colour is very much of its time (the book was first published in Sweden in 1966) and therefore looks gloriously retro, something that Tate accentuates with the quality of paper used. Though this British edition is from 2011, it very much looks like a 1960s edition. A classy tome indeed.
Part of the gorgeous Usborne Illustrated Originals series, this is the most child-friendly unabridged version of Alice I have come across. The text is large and clear and the contemporary take on Alice and Wonderland make this classic really accessible to read independently and quite frankly much less daunting. Of all the editions I have, this is the one I chose to read the story aloud to my children. The illustrations by Spanish illustrator Fran Parreño are modern, enchanting and his Alice is relatable. I really cannot recommend this book enough if you are after a modern-looking Alice and/or an accessible edition of the text, for independent reading particularly.
Part of the Classics Unfolded series, this adaptation summarises the book in 14 plates which represent 14 scenes in the story, including some quotes from the original text. The books unfolds concertina-style and is presented in a slipcase. This a really novel and ludic way to introduce classics, particularly to those who might struggle to access the original text. Yelena Bryksenkova’s artwork is quite unusual (certainly for this country, not sure anyone would bat an eyelid in continental Europe); it looks simple and child-like but is not in any way childish and this again works in its favour to make it an easily accessible adaptation for possible slightly older readers. This format makes obvious how the story goes full circle with both opening and closing illustrations of Alice and her sister sitting on the river bank very similar. Not all novelty adaptations work, but I think this is quite successful in its approach.
Tony Ross’ take on the crazy world of Wonderland is as wacky and fun as you would hope it would be. He manages to capture the nonsense and humour of the original tale and make it accessible for young audiences who might miss the more funny parts of the original text because they cannot quite grasp the language. Tony Ross gives it the right spin to make it comical and modern enough to compare and compete with the large selection of contemporary funny books available these days.
Emma Chichester Clark’s Alice manages to be both classic and contemporary. Illustrated in darker tones that we are used to with this wonderful illustrator, we find nonetheless amongst the pages of this book her incredibly detailed and exquisite patterns and a heroine who, from the onset, looks straight into the reader’s eye with a rather determined look. She almost looks stoic amongst all the other madcap characters she comes across. This is a lovely adaptation which works well as a first introduction to the classic.
Alison Jay’s illustrations of iconic scenes of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland are used here to introduce concepts such as “fall”, “eat” and “grow” in this first word board book. Her unique delicate style brings a magical fairy-tale like atmosphere to the story and with its sturdy pages and small format, it is easy to grab and hold for little hands. Despite the small format, this will definitely be of interest for Alice collectors, as Alison Jay’s take on the classic is rather quite enchanting.
Buy the books here.
Source: review copies from publishers