Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Children’s Classic’

When Alice Went Wondering

Everybody knows that I often keep **complaining** about all the reading adventures Cleo gets me dragged into! But heart of heart, I know that life would be one mundane boring reading if it was not for friends like Cleo, who make you read everything from Beowulf to The Histories to The Metamorphosis. Naturally, this year is no different, and after swearing off on doing any read along on account of being crazy busy at work, I was soon signing up to read with her several works!! What do they say about, road to hell being paved with good intentions??

Anyhow, Thanks to Cleo, I got to know that Amanda at Simpler Pastimes, is hosting the Classics Children’s Literature Event 5 and not only that, the suggested book was Alice Adventure in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll! Now I have always wondered about Alice in Wonderland; as a child when my Dad got me that huge pop up book with some lovely illustrations, I remember loving the colors and pictures but not putting in too much tuck with the story! As I grew up, I read a lot of Carroll’s limericks and puzzles and I was moderately impressed but hardly blown away, As a student of English Literature, I read a lot of “analysis” on Alice in Wonderland and when this event came along, it was as good a time as any to revisit the book and decide once and for all, do I like Lewis Carroll or not??!!

alice-300

The story is too well known to everyone; nevertheless, here goes a brief summary. One summer afternoon, Alice finds herself bored and drowsy, sitting by her elder sister who was reading, near the riverbank, when she noticed a rabbit in a waistcoat and a pocket watch hurrying off. She follows the rabbit and falls a long way, until she reaches a hall with many doors. She spies a beautiful garden beyond the doors, which she wants to visit, but is to big to get through the door. She finds a drink which shrinks her to enable her to get through the door but then she realizes that the key was still on table and now she was too tiny to get it. Thus begins her adventures of growing big and small and of meeting rabbits and the Duchess and the Cheshire cat and the King and Queen of hearts. She drinks tea with Mad Hatter and his friends and plays croquet with flamingos, until she ends up in a most strange court room case!

I have read a lot of essays attempting to de-code this tale. Its been called a sarcastic commentary on  the education system of 19th century to the author’s word play with French. I am sure there are other many interesting interpretations – but to me it is still a very good yarn for the children. Imagination and fun flows through the tale. It’s like an adventure where you let go of reality and let the author take you places for he would. I loved the quirky crazy sense of humor. I loved how from one tale to another, we jumped characters and situations without any need to justify the previous occurrences. I loved the characters – Mad Hatter and Cheshire Cat were my most favorite, but I quite loved the King of Cards trying to run the court! I thoroughly enjoyed Carroll’s mockery of “moral tales”. But it was Alice herself that left be in her language “Curiouser and curiouser”. I am not sure what to make of her – true, she is only a 10 year old but I found her quite annoying 10 year old and while she does display a lot of spunk, but she seems to come across as someone completely oblivious of others. I get it 10 years old is very young, but 10 year olds can be as sensitive and kind as any adult, in fact more so. While Alice seems to be just a bratty kid!

Overall I am so very glad I re-read this book! I am still not too fond of Carroll, but that still did not diminish my complete and thorough enjoyment of the book!

The Return of the Lion

Despite my varied reading adventures, there are some books and authors, I never got around to reading. This is especially true for Children’s Literature because as young child I read whatever my parents introduced me to and they did introduce me to great many, and as an adult, there were so many new books to read, that going back to explore a Children’s Classic took a back seat! But my 12 Months Classic Reading Challenge  gave me a tiny opportunity to correct this, with the September theme being – A Children’s Classic. While there are many many many works to read, there is one which has been on mind forever – The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Yes, I hang my head in shame and admit that I have never read the Narnia books ever! This selection also was inspired by the absolute devotion my reading buddy Cleo has for Lewis and thanks to her I have been introduced to some of the most brilliant, thought proving essays that Lewis wrote. Therefore I was even more curious to see how Lewis handled a children’s book. As y reading projects for this year is vast, I selected only one book of the series, the most famous – The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

During wartime England, 4 children, 2 brothers and 2 sisters, Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy, are evacuated to the countryside and come to live in a large rambling mansion, home of a kindly professor. The children are excited to be in such a wonderful house and plan many adventures for duration of their stay. In one of their explorations, Lucy wanders into a room with nothing but a wardrobe; curious she opens the wardrobe and steps inside it. She finds fur coats after fur coats and as she keeps walking into the deep interior she suddenly realizes that she is outside and in a wooded area with snow all over. More curious than ever, she walks on and soon meets a Faun named Tumnus. Tumnus explains to her that she has reached Narnia, the winter land where Christmas never comes and is ruled by the very wicked White Witch. He then invites Lucy for tea and entertains her wonderfully.However when Lucy indicates that she must go back, the faun is overcome and starts bawling. He reveals that he is in the pay of the white witch and he must turn over to her any daughters of Eve or sons of Adam as he find. If he does not, she will turn him into a statue of stone. Conscience and Lucy’s pleadings however make Tumnus change his plans and he quietly and stealthily escorts Lucy to the border of Narnia from where she can go inside the Wardrobe and back in her old world. Glad to be back, Lucky runs to her sister and brothers and shares her adventure with them. However she is astonished to find out that according to her siblings she had not been gone for long and furthermore they do not believe her story and imply that she is a liar. They continue teasing her often, Edmund who is nastier than the others does so even more. Lucy soon becomes quiet and retreats in a shell, but continues to be physically present with the children, though no longer with joy. In yet another game or hide and seek, Lucy and Edmund both tumble into the wardrobe and end up in Narnia,separately. Edmund meets the White Witch who gives hims bewitched Turkish Delight to eat and tell him she will make him the Prince and then the King of Narnia if he brings his brothers and sisters to her. Lucy and Edmund finally find each other in Narnia and hurry back to the wardrobe and run to tell the other two. However in the presence of Peter and Susan, Edmund pretends that nothing had ever happened and Lucy was fibbing again. Lucy after this incident retreats further and Edmund snubbed by Peter on needlessly teasing her, turns ever more vicious in his attacks on Lucy. In such circumstances, Mrs. Macready, the housekeeper who is not fond of children and has told them never to be around when showing the house to visitors, brings a set of visitors one morning and the children in a rush to avoid the very conflict which Mrs. Macready had warned against, stumble into the Wardrobe and then Narnia, setting the stage for some unforgettable adventures.

Did I love the book? Oh! Yes! I loved the simple, linear and the well knit plot that the author wrote, specifically bearing in mind the age and ability of his young audience. He uses all the delightful techniques that not only bait the young audience but also many older ones like delicious description of food, wonderful animals and of course, nail baiting, near heartbreak endings! The book beautifully covers all the emotions experienced by us, especially as children – excitement, sense of adventure, happiness, betrayal, heartbreak and exultation; all are captured succinctly. The characters are well drawn out – the children setting an example of what good behavior stands for, especially for the readers. Aslan and the Witch are absolutely riveting characters , that draw you in powerfully and involve you in their fates.However, I must admit to drawing parallels between the White Witch and Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen. The other minor characters of Fauns, Beavers and Giants provide an entertaining ensemble to already dazzling cast! Narnia comes alive in all its glory through the descriptions and actions of this cast. It is very interesting how C.S.Lewis drew allegories, especially Christianity based allegories into his tale – the voluntary sacrifice of Aslan in lieu of Edmund’s life  as well as his resurrections the most obvious allusion to Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. However the novel stands on its own strength, even with the allegories built in and goes to prove, the brilliance of C.S. Lewis.

I now HAVE to get hold of the other books! I simply HAVE to!

 

%d bloggers like this: