So it's tech week for our household, that time each spring when my dear husband goes into "round the clock" mode as he shepherds a couple of dozen 4th-8th graders through the final week leading up to their play performance! This year it's The Phantom Tollbooth, and while we've missed...sort of...having Smaug the Dragon in our dining room (last year's play was The Hobbit) we've enjoyed helping to paint cardboard signs to mark Milo's journey to Dictionopolis and Digitopolis. D. built the tollbooth last weekend (it has to be something that can be assembled on stage) and we're all rooting for a great performance for the kids this coming weekend. And on Sunday we'll cap everything off with a celebration of D's birthday!
We've loved The Phantom Tollbooth for years, but having D. direct the play sent us back to the book. We've enjoyed the annotated version, though it was our old paperback copy we recently read from together. Re-reading Milo's journeys in odd and faraway lands got us thinking of other classic bits of literary nonsense. And it suddenly occurred to us that the sweet girl had never met Alice in Wonderland.
She'd encountered some of the poems from Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (she memorized "How Doth the Little Crocodile" a few years ago, and we've enjoyed Jabberwocky more than once) but she'd never made the entire journey through Wonderland. We picked up a beautiful reading copy at the library, with illustrations by Allison Jay, and have been enjoying the humor and word play. The sweet girl has been inspired by Jay's artwork and has done some of her own terrific Alice sketches. One of my favorites is her version of Alice falling down the rabbit hole, which she is kindly letting me share here!
In all honesty, I've never been a huge fan of Alice, though I came to a greater appreciation of it in a college Victorian Lit. class. This time through has definitely been my favorite read, partly because we're enjoying it as a family and partly because it's eye-opening to read it on the heels of Tollbooth and to think about the similarities and differences. While there's no doubt that Juster must have had Alice in the back of his mind somewhere when he created Milo, I truly love that for Milo, the real "wonderland" turns out not to be the lands he visits in the fantasy section of the story, but his own everyday world. Alice falls into Wonderland and returns to the "dull reality" of the real world; Milo learns lessons in the land of wisdom and returns home to find true wonder, to discover that "everything looked new -- and worth trying."