Does Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland need this prequel?
In this innocuous attempt to fill in Alice’s backstory, the young girl is a student at “the dreariest board school in all of England.” Just as in the film version of The Wizard of Oz, the illustrations are primarily black and white until Alice enters a walled garden outside the school. Paintings in lovely pastel shades take over, and from then on, Alice’s world changes. She is depicted in color, while the rest of her unkind classmates stay black and white, even when they enter the idealized garden. Her kindness to creatures she finds in the garden—a rabbit, a caterpillar, and a lory bird (a type of small parrot)—endear her to them, and they, in turn, become characters familiar from the classic: the White Rabbit, the Caterpillar (not smoking a hookah), and the Gryphon, respectively. When Alice’s bullying classmates try to steal the lovely things that her new friends have provided (a roomful of beautiful objects, a gold pocket watch, and special tarts labeled “Eat Me”), the creatures harass the other girls. Best of all, the magical trio promises friendship forever. The paintings exhibit an agreeable Victorian prettiness but have none of the strength of John Tenniel’s iconic drawings or of Helen Oxenbury’s more recent interpretations. Alice is depicted with flowing blonde locks, pale skin, and vacant blue eyes that match her dress, and her classmates are likewise white. This version of the beginning of Alice’s story adds nothing to the Carroll book that has symbolized wonder and enchantment for readers for over 150 years.
Go straight down the rabbit hole—there is no need to dally in this vapid imitation of the original. (Picture book. 6-8)