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With loving faithfulness, if little inspiration, British poet/critic Adair has fashioned a third Alice expedition to follow Lewis Carroll's Wonderland and Looking-Glass classics: this time, Dinah the cat (""now quite old and sleepy"") by her side, little Alice is trying hard to thread a needle. . . when she sees ""the most delightful vista"" through the needle's eye. . . and is soon tumbling right into the needle's eye, landing in a bright summer countryside! (""And whether the needle grew larger or Alice grew smaller, I cannot say. . ."") She meets a Cockney-accented Country Mouse, with many puns arising from the dropped ""aitches""--especially since this wonderland is an alphabet-land where A's are harvested and letters are collected by bees. (""To spell out words, you know. That's why they're called spelling bees."") Then; proceeding somewhat alphabetically, Alice encounters Siamese-Twin Cats, a testy Elephant, and a scholarly Grampus teamed (… la Walrus/Car. penter) with an Italian Hairdresser. Next: the stick-figures Jack and Jill; a flurry of eels and L's; a trek through a Maze (""lost-in-a-mazement""); a contest featuring three principal events--Running a Temperature, Jumping to Conclusions, and Skipping the Difficult Passages. And finally, after an edgy reunion with the Red Queen and White Queen, Alice moves on from Rattlesnake to Swan to tea to a Battle of Letters involving (among others) Lords X, Y, and Z. . . before waking up from this ""dream in Alphabetical Order."" Adair's animal/letter characters lack the intense, sharp-edged charm of Carroll's scary/lovable creatures; the land beyond the needle's eye doesn't have the compelling, dream-geography quality of Carroll at his best. And, as much (or more) than the originals, Adair's punhappy tale often depends upon very British, very grownup allusions: ""ideas beyond my station,"" ""a brown study,"" Welsh place-names, The Sands of Dee, Bradshaw. Still, for Wonderland devotees, or for fanciers of English-accented wordplay, this is a genial, hard-working imitation--presented in Alice-traditional format, complete with Tenniel-like drawings by Jenny Thorne.

Pub Date: March 25th, 1985
Publisher: Dutton