Alice for all ages

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Nearly all parents have a book that’s ‘burning a hole in their pocket’ – in other words, a story they loved as a child that they can’t wait to share with their own children. Of course, there are no guarantees that your children’s enthusiasm will equal yours, but parents at least get to enjoy an old favourite again.

The story that I can’t wait to share is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and more particularly, Alice Through the Looking Glass. So much has been written about Alice, the story analysed, interpreted and used as the inspiration for movies, music, art and other stories. Likewise, there are so many versions of the story available. Choosing an edition of Alice essentially comes down to a decision between illustrators and there are certainly lots to pick from.

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I have two favourites. The first is the set illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. Oxenbury is well known for her illustrations in modern classics such as We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. Oxenbury’s Alice is more carefree, with a little ragamuffin charm, compared to  the ‘commercial’ Alice we see most places. Her aim was to create an Alice that is a child of our time, which she has achieved beautifully.

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Quite different, but equally tempting are the illustrations by Alison Jay in her edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Jay’s distinctive style shows us a much more prim, but still thoroughly lovable Alice. Almost every page features an illustration, all rich in colour under the characteristic crackle-glazed textured varnish that is characteristic of Jay’s work. This is a beautiful book and I am eagerly awaiting Jay’s take on Alice Through the Looking Glass.

I am biased, but I think you can justify more than one edition of Alice on your bookshelf! The Complete Alice set illustrated by Helen Oxenbury is $76.99. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Alison Jay is $21.97. Both are available from Fishpond.

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Katrina Whelen

Katrina studied planning and design, did the hard yards working in a big office building and then traded it all in for a relaxing (!) life at home with four children. She now fills her time with writing, completing a degree in genetics and taxiing her children around Melbourne to their various sporting commitments (not necessarily in that order).

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