Saturday, March 30, 2013


"And what is the use of a book," thought Alice, "without pictures or conversations?"

I agree with Lewis Carroll's intrepid heroine. Over at Red Room, when writers were recently asked to name our favorite children's adventure, I found I was looking for lots of action, funny, interesting talk, and wonderful images—whether on the page or conjured in the mind's eye.

I suppose I'm expected to cite Peter Pan, since I've just written a novel about Captain Hook, but I've already written a blog about my longtime flirtation with Hook.

I'm also a big fan of The Wizard of Oz, but while I had well-thumbed copies of several Oz books, as a kid, I was more bedazzled by the MGM movie shown on TV every year. Indeed, I wrote a streamlined version of the movie script (in pencil, on lined Jiffy notebook paper) for my 6th Grade class, casting my classmates in all the roles. (Sadly, this epic was never produced, but when my teacher saw it, she promoted me to director of our class play, The Magic Fishbone.)

And I adore all the Harry Potter books, of course, although for this challenge I assumed they wanted us to write about books we read and loved as actual children.

Which brings me back to Alice, the plucky little English girl who enters the gaping maw of chaos and yet maintains her aplomb, eager for fun and adventure, yet ready to speak common sense to silliness at every turn.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is great fun, but my favorite Alice book is the sequel, Through the Looking Glass.

The narrative is a classic quest structure, a giant living chess game in which Alice begins as a lowly pawn and travels across many odd terrains in several moves to become a queen—encountering Humpty Dumpty (deluding himself that all the king's horses and men will protect him from any future mishap), the sweetly befuddled old White Knight, and the imperious Red Queen along the way. Not to mention the two epic poems, "The Walrus and the Carpenter," and the irresistible "Jabberwocky!"

Through it all, she is kind and helpful to those who are kind and helpful to her, thoughtful when given a variety of very weird things to ponder, and always ready for an argument when a thing makes no sense—which is most of the time.

We were so enamored of this book as kids that my brother and I used to travel all around our yard, acting out our favorite scenes. I even made this diorama of Alice climbing through a saran-wrap "looking glass" in the 5th Grade (borrowing some of the furniture from Barbie's Dream House.)

The text also provides me with two of my all-time favorite quotes, which I am eager to fling into any conversation to this day.

"It takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place," says the Red Queen. "If you want to get somewhere else, you must run twice as fast as that." What harried, modern multi-tasker can't identify with that?
And this from Humpty Dumpty, which his practically become my writing mantra: "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less." Amen!

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