The Wonderland Alphabet: Alice’s Adventures Through the ABC’s and What She Found There
By Alethea Kontis & Janet K. Lee.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland remains for me, like many I’m sure, one of my favourite stories, and perhaps one of the most manically enjoyable memories from my childhood that has lingered on into adulthood. It transcends many barriers and its appeal, I think, is mainly due to the scale of Carroll’s world and the endless interpretations and adaptations that come out of it.
I read The Wonderland Alphabet digitally and it was glorious on a glossy screen. I haven’t seen a hard copy yet but I imagine this is fantastic in its poster book format and am sure it would work equally well as a postcard collection and as one large tiled image too.
Each page, unsurprisingly, takes one letter of the alphabet and weaves intricate details from Wonderland around it to create a visual story. The letters themselves are styled as though from an ancient tome, putting me in mind of old fairytales. Our favourite characters, places and phrases from Wonderland are spelled out in their own unique rhyme, giving a narrative summary of the key points of Wonderland in brilliant graphic representation.
The artwork here is arresting. On first glance the characters and renditions appear strong yet simple, perhaps sometimes garish in their representation, which fits perfectly with the tone of the original story. It feels only right that it be that way, and helps to enhance the darker elements of Wonderland as Carroll himself wrote it.
It is on closer inspection that we see the intricate level of detail that has gone into the book: a unique style and colour scheme for each page; the beautiful patterns that make up the interior of the main letters; the shape and detail granted to the words of the rhymes, the characters, costumes and settings.
I struggle to choose my favourite image, torn between the crocodile with his cheeky grin, cute little Bill in his pinstripe jacket, and the brilliant unbirthday party complete with March Hare, cake and teapot. In fact each time I glance through the pages I notice something that I hadn’t spotted before.
For fans there is definitely something here that will conjure fond or nostalgic memories of Wonderland, but I think the book has a wider appeal. Certainly as a tool for teaching the alphabet it has all the necessary shapes and colours and provides a quirky alternative to the standard books. Older children will love the rhymes and the mini-stories. Teens and adults will love the darker elements of the world and the subtle portrayal of those details.
The Wonderland Alphabet would also be a great introduction to Wonderland for total newbies or people who have only ever seen the Disney cartoon, and this book is another representation of Carroll’s world that reminds us how rich the original text is and why it continues to captivate us.