Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Through the Looking Glass

by Lewis Carroll

John Tenniel covers for Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass

Lewis Carroll's Alices Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass
illustrated by Garth Williams

Book review by Billy Dickerson

Ages 9+

Alice explores Dream Theory

Where can you fall down a rabbit hole and play croquet with a Queen using flamingos for mallets or walk through the mirror and play a game of chess across the entire world? Certainly not anywhere we’ve been, but you can manage that in the world of dreams. That is the true beauty of Alice’s adventures in dreamland. Alice is able to have exciting adventures that have stirred the imagination for generations, but we only have to look to our dreams to find similar inspiration.

Although it’s hard to find these two books separately, either in books or movies, these are very different stories and deserve to be explained on their own.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Young Alice experiences a strange world when she follows a rabbit down a rabbit hole. Don’t deny it, if you saw a rabbit looking at a pocket watch and shouting about being late, you would be just a little bit curious. You might not jump down a hole to follow it, but you would at least take a second look.

In Adventures in Wonderland, Alice experiences several of the standard dream scenarios including falling, and an understanding of how her dream world works. (That might explain why she eats and drinks things that she normally wouldn’t and certainly shouldn’t.)

Alice faces threats and challenges that she certainly wouldn’t encounter in the real world, but it is possible to see the natural origins of these characters. Freud would have a field day talking about how the Duchess represents Alice’s fear of her mother and perhaps the child she saves from the Duchess is a combination of Alice’s desire to go back to the infant state and her desire to be a mother.

Through the Looking Glass

This story takes a different approach to the world of dreams. Rather than create a whole new world, this dream recreates the world, turning it into a giant chess board. This time, Alice’s adventures begin because she wonders what the world on the other side of the mirror might be like. In her dream, she checks to see if she can get into this world and she can, thanks to another recurring dream theme-wish fulfillment.

Inside the mirror, Alice sees some very amazing people and things, just like in her dream adventure in Wonderland, only this trip is different.

In this world, there is more of a theme, and Alice has somewhat of a quest-to cross the chess board and become a queen.

Looking-Glass Land is filled with a strange assortment of characters; some of them are drawn from popular characters like Humpty Dumpty or Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Some of the characters are drawn from the natural world like the Wasp, or gnat with his explanation of Looking-Glass insects.

Most of them, however, come from the chess board: Kings. Queens, and Knight all play in the game and have their part in the adventure. The most intriguing is when Alice sees the Red King sleeping and the Tweedles bring up the question of whether Alice is dreaming of the Red King or the Red King is dreaming of Alice.

Adventures in Dreamland - Wrap Up

So what does all of this have to do with your kid? I know they aren’t concerned with dream theory, but if you read them these stories, you can talk about dreams. I’m sure your child has had similar dream experiences and would love to share them with you. Adventures in Wonderland and Looking-Glass Land are a great way to start that conversation.

Something else that is a huge part of Lewis Carroll’s writing that I haven’t even touched on yet is the poetry. Carroll loves to work with nonsense words (Jabberwocky), nature (How Doth the Little Crocodile or Twinkle, Twinkle Little Bat), or silly situations (You are Old, Father Williams or A Sittin’ on a Gate) These poems will be entertaining and help to increase your child’s interest in poetry because it is fun and rhythmic.

If you are looking for a fun set of books for your child, look for a copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Chances are they will be together in the same book so you won’t even have to buy different books. (Webmaster's note: Sure enough, they are!) You’ll get extra value for your money and get two classic adventures to share with your kids.

More classic kid lit.

Read more of Billy's reviews.

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