On Being an Alice Fan Right Now

by Jules

(Jules is the pen name of Julie Danielson of Smyrna, TN, who has variously been a sign language interpreter, children’s librarian and most recently was the librarian at The Tennessee School for the Deaf in Knoxville. She now describes herself as a stay-at-home mother who has “given up on the idea of any hobbies other than reading, since all I want to do in my spare time is read.” She adds: “Good thing my husband likes to cook.” She is now the sole proprietor of the blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast—http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings.com—which she launched with a friend in 2006; although Jules emphasizes children’s literature her blog, 7 Impossible Things… is a must read for anyone who loves books of any and all kinds as well as intelligent conversation with authors, poets and such. This month’s ‘Alice’ installment was originally posted on February 3, 2010; part 2, ‘Electric Boogaloo,’ was originally posted on March 10, 2010.

(We are pleased to note, too, that our new contributor Jules has landed her first book deal. With co-authors Elizabeth Bird and Peter D. Sieruta she has signed with Candlewick to pen Wild Things! The True, Untold Stories Behind the Most Beloved Children’s Books and Their Creators. Scheduled for publication in September 2012, the book will, in Jules’s words, “look at the world of children’s lit, past and present, and examine some of its untold tales — with humor, celebration, respect, occasional irreverence, and always great affection for the field.” Congratulations! For more information on this project, check this detailed posting at 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast.)


Now, isn't that the Mad Tea-Party as you've never quite seen it before? That comes from the mind of illustrator Oleg Lipchenko, but more on that in a minute.

It's about to be a good time to be a fan of the novel for which Lewis Carroll was most famously known, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, or-in the words of Martin Gardner—"a very curious, complicated kind of nonsense." And the reason it's about to be a good time to be an Alice fan? Tim Burton’s new film adaptation, a certified box office smash. Publishers are already taking advantage of the upcoming Alice craze, including Chronicle books, who have recently released this: http://www.youtube.com/chroniclebooks#p/a/u/2/pC2yqcBlk2. (More on that later, since—as the Illustration Junkie I am—you can bet I'm dying to see that one.)

Another case-in-point? Illustrator (and designer and teacher) Bill Carman, who has visited 7-Imp several times and whom, I swear, I should bring on as a consultant or something, tells me that Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra, California, is planning an upcoming exhibit, a tribute show, called "Curiouser and Curiouser: Inspired by Alice in Wonderland." Here's the link with the information; the exhibit begins February 27th. (How much do I love that they're also featuring "Zombies in Love," but I digress.)

The gallery's invited "artists of the feature film and beyond to create their vision of the iconic story and celebrate it's lasting legacy." Bill will be contributing a few paintings himself, and I'm sharing them today. Here's Bill's Dude, What are You Wearing?, but he says we can call it Tweedles for short. (A tribute to these guys, of course: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tweedledum_and_Tweedledee)


Here is his Hatter image below, though I stress that it's a work-in-progress. In fact, Bill's sharing the birth, so to speak, and growth of the image over at his blog. ("I feel a little naked showing all of my marks, snots and goobers as I go," he writes, "but this is an important part of my process. The bad brushstrokes and 'mistakes' all tell me something and could lead to beautiful passages which would otherwise stay hidden were I more careful.") Here are the first two versions at Bill’s Studio, and the one you see here is the third. The final, polished illustration is on view at Bill's Studio as well.


Incidentally, Bill tells me that Nucleus is really good about posting all of the work from their shows. In fact, the pieces will be posted on the site all during the exhibit—after opening night. So, be sure to take a gander, if—like me—you're way far away and can't take in the exhibit yourself.

Back to that opening illustration...That comes from Oleg Lipchenko's adaptation of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, released by Tundra Books in November. (I have Colleen Mondor—and Little Willow—to thank for emailing and telling me I just had to see these illustrations.) Because you know I'm a Review Nerd and like to share the professionals' point-of-view, I'll add: Publishers Weekly called Lipchenko's illustrations "gracefully expressive" and described the book as a "lovely and faithful interpretation," while School Library Journal applauded the "{e}legant book design and sophisticated artwork," adding:

Lipchenko's illustrations, in monochromatic sepia and black-and-white tones, combine precisely drawn detail with broad architectural perspectives.... Ever-changing perspectives, dramatic shadowing and shading, and layouts that have an Escheresque quality make the artwork remarkable and innovative, though geared toward a more mature audience. The relationship between the text and pictures offers much room for exploration and interpretation...


Yeah. I'm still poring over my copy. I was able to get some art from it to share. Here's more from the Mad Tea-Party:


Here's the same spread in two cuts so that you can see it in more detail:


And here are the left and right sides of the endpapers:


Curiouser and curiouser, yes? And surreal and gloriously bizarre in about seven different directions.

Many more images from the book can be seen at Oleg's website.

Illustrations from Bill Carman used with his permission. All rights reserved.
ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND. Illustrations copyright (c) 2009 by Oleg Lipchenko. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Tundra Books, Ontario.



On Being an Alice Fan Right Now
Part Two: Electric Boogaloo
(posted on March 10, 2010)

Well, I mentioned earlier, dear readers, that Chronicle Books was releasing a most lovely illustrated paperback edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, originally published (in hardcover) in 2000. This was back when I noted what a good time it is to be an Alice fan. Due to the new Tim Burton film adaptation (which, no, I haven't seen; it will likely be a DVD-watch for me), the lit-minded folks of the world are all AliceAliceAlice right about now. This is good for us geeky fans, who consider it one of our desert-island-type reads.

(Pictured here is Gertrude Kay's depiction of Wonderland, circa 1923.)

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: A Classic Illustrated Edition was compiled by Cooper Edens, who owns an impressive collection of rare and antique picture books, one of the largest in the world. Excuse me, but SWOON. ....Where was I? Right. Chronicle has released this 2010 paperback edition and did I mention it's lovely? Edens explains in the preface how he chose with "great care and deep reverence" the illustrations in this edition. He adds:

"...there is no singular vision of Wonderland. In researching the visual history of (the book), and the many different artists it has enchanted, I discovered that each artist focused on different elements of Lewis Carroll's story...For me, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is a book so incredibly faceted that its many secrets begin to shine only when these distinct interpretations are brought together."


It's with that mindset that he sets forth to re-visit Carroll's tale with a variety of takes on the bizarro world that is Wonderland. Most of these are illustrations from the turn of the last century. No contemporary adaptations here (my three favorites being Helen Oxenbury's, Lisbeth Zwerger's and Robert Sabuda's—those are in no particular order, 'cause like hell could I rate those beautiful books). The art of Honor C. Appleton, Maria L. Kirk, Peter Newell, Charles Robinson, John Tenniel, J. Arthur Rackham, Besse Pease Guttman and many more illustrators grace the pages.

The below images are not taken from this title, but I couldn't help but pull some vintage Alice images for this post. If one were to be comprehensive about this, one could quite possibly write The World's Longest Post. There are a lot of beautiful, old Alice images. Here are just some...


lllustration by Marjorie Torrey, circa 1955

Illustration by Jessie Wilcox Smith, circa 1923

Illustration from A.E. Jackson, circa 1915

Illustration from Arthur Rackham, circa 1907

Illustration from Gwynedd M. Hudson, circa 1922

Illustration by Bessie Pease Gutmann, circa 1907

The one and only Tenniel, circa 1865

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