Brian Alderson is founder of the Children’s Books History Society and a former Children’s Books Editor for The Times. Gwynneth Bailey is a freelance education and children’s book consultant. Jill Bennett is the author of Learning to Read with Picture Books and heads up a nursery unit. Fen Coles is co-director at Letterbox Library. Jane Churchill is a children’s book consultant. Stuart Dyer is an Head Teacher of a primary school in East Devon. Geoff Fox is former Co-Editor (UK) of Children’s Literature in Education, but continues to work on the board and as an occasional teller of traditional tales. Sarah Gallagher is a headteacher and director of Ferelith Hordon is a former children’s librarian and editor of Books for Keeps Carey Fluker Hunt is a writer and children’s book consultant. Helen Kelsey is a primary school teacher and leads an OU/UKLA Teachers’ Reading Group Matthew Martin is a primary school teacher.

Sue McGonigle is a Lecturer in Primary Education and Co-Creator of Margaret Pemberton is a school library consultant and blogs at Val Randall is Head of English and Literacy Co-ordinator at a Pupil Referral Unit. Andrea Reece is Managing Editor of Books for Keeps. Sue Roe is a children’s librarian. Elizabeth Schlenther is the compiler of Nicholas Tucker is honorary senior lecturer in Cultural and Community Studies at Sussex University. Clare Zinkin is a children’s book consultant, writer and editor.

Books About Children’s Books

The Making of Lewis Carroll’s Alice and the Invention of Wonderland


Peter Hunt, Bodleian Library 128pp, illustrated throughout in black and white and colour, 978-1-85124-532-1, £15 pbk with flaps

As has long been known, the adventures of Alice Liddell, daughter of the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, began when she was the heroine of a story, or stories, told by the Rev. Charles Dodgson, a Christ Church lecturer. The narrative was stabilised when Dodgson

took Alice Under

Ground in a manuscript that he wrote out and illustrated for her as a Christmas present in 1864. A year later this found a much expanded form as a printed book for all to read: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with Dodgson adopting his authorial name of

Lewis Carroll. Invention

and making did not occur only there however

taken to the chess-board landscape Through

and in 1871 Alice was the Looking-Glass while

eighteen years later she returned

to Wonderland in a highly abridged journey intended for reading to, or even by, small children. Merely to describe these authorial

metamorphoses as a critical exercise is a demanding task, but from the very start

the text is more than

just an absurdist story for children. It is overlaid with multiple tropes stemming from the author’s life and relationships around Oxford and by a multiplicity of jokes, puns, parodies and puzzles.

Including a tithe of

these in a simple explanation of the adventures, intended, as here, for general readers is a demanding job. Peter Hunt admits as much in his highly perceptive

although it should be noted that he is by no means the first to venture into the dream landscapes down the rabbit-hole or across the chess- board squares beyond the


Hundreds have been there before him in annotated editions of the stories, in biographical studies, in the massive output of the English and American Lewis Carroll Societies (don’t mention Japan) and even in his own annotated edition

of the books in Oxford’s

World’s Classics series. In the event though I’m not sure

but what his new take on the books will not

confuse most innocent

readers as well as deprive them of important elements in the business of making and inventing. He is always a most approachable writer, enjoying the amusing aspects of his task and always ready to question Received Ideas, but he too often allows himself to be diverted into irrelevant by-ways. (How do the listing of the names and ages of

actresses who have introduction

played Alice help the job in hand, or [a makeweight?] brief biographies of some of the dramatis personae in the book? What’s the use of a misleading

synopsis of some didactic children’s books published before Alice mostly cribbed

from Harvey Darton’s

historical work?) These and other unnecessary passages are the more frustrating in that they obscure a second aspect of the making of the books: their life as physical products. (Hunt omits mention in his “Further Reading” of two crucial books in this respect: Lewis Carroll and the House of Macmillan [1987] and


Hancher’s The Tenniel Illustrations to the “Alice” Books [1985].) Tenniel is indeed the main sufferer here for although

predictable aspects are

discussed such as the “Wasp in a Wig” incident or the character of the White Knight, there is nothing on either his techniques or his vision throughout

the project. Indeed,

spurred on initially by Carroll’s own thirty-seven drawings for Under Ground, he is surely himself the Inventor of Wonderland. (Ask yourself: what would have been the fate of Alice’s Adventures if it had been published as a plain text edition?) As it is, the illustrations that

adorn the present volume do great credit to its intentions as a popular summary. They appear, often in full colour, on almost every page of the book, sometimes on facing pages as well, and they are not only relevant and entertaining but, thanks mostly to Christ Church and the Bodleian itself, seldom paraded in Carolliana (the many coloured adaptations of Tenniel are from some facsimile playing cards devised by E Gertrude Thomson in Bodley’s John Johnson Collection). Pernicketty to the last though, I must point out that the Struwwelpeter plate should be dated after 1906 rather than 1985 and that the mysterious Humpty Dumpty on page 95 needs a date. BA

Under 5s Pre – School/Nursery/Infant

Arlo, the Lion Who Couldn’t Sleep


Catherine Rayner, Macmillan, 36pp, 9781509804207, £12.99 hbk

How do you get to sleep when you

cannot; the conditions are just not right? Arlo would love to know – he is so tired. Luckily Owl has the answer – a little rhyme that sets the mood perfectly – and without any more fuss, Arlo falls asleep. Indeed, the little rhyme is so effective, Arlo is able to help his friends when their sleep is interrupted, whether it is Owl in the daytime – or the whole pride of lions in the night. Perfect Catherine Rayner’s vigorous pen strokes capture the size and energy

22 Books for Keeps No.243 July 2020

of Arlo but are artfully softened for Owl’s feathery weight, bringing both creatures to life. They dominate the pages, solid, active – or slumped in sleep. Rayner has given them real


presence. Their world is a created

by luminous

vibrant watercolour washes that are both subtle and precise. From the opening cover spread of the dawn with the trees emerging from the early morning mist to the closing end papers where they recede into darkness, we follow Arlo across the wide expanse of a savannah world. The text is a pleasure to read – ideal for sharing with a class, even more perfect for bedtime, with the lilting bedtime rhyme (surely this will become a staple it is so catchy). Here

is a picture book where words and images work together perfectly. (My only reservation – on the final spread the choice of font colour makes the text very difficult to read. This is a shame, rather detracting from what is an outstanding offering.) Highly recommended. FH


Sam Usher, Templar Publishing, 32pp, 978 1 7874 1685 7, £6.99 pbk

Grandpa and Boy (the narrator) have a busy day ahead - ‘looking-after-the- cat’ day. Boy has done his research and doesn’t anticipate any difficulties: all she needs is someone willing to play with her, feed her and cuddle her – what could be simpler than that?

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32