On the 27th of this month, we celebrate the 184th birthday of one of the most influential writers to grace children’s literature … the Rev. Charles Lutwitdge Dodgson. But most of us know him better under his super secret superhero/pen name: Lewis Carroll.
Born in 1832 into a conservative and religious family, Carroll’s father, a parish priest, married his first cousin and had 11 children. Carroll was the eldest boy, the family entertainer, and even though he had a stammer, he was a practiced storyteller for his brothers and sisters and a brilliant student.
Carroll had an affinity for children and collected “Child Friends” throughout his lifetime that raised some eyebrows, even in Victorian times, when the age of consent was 14. This otherwise dry, methodical, punctilious and orderly man preferred them to his adult peers, thinking of them as a refuge from adults and his duties as a Don of Mathematics at Christ Church, Oxford. He came alive before children, inspired by their innocence and mere presence. And most especially by the presence of one little girl in particular: Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Alice in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Before you think about comparing him to another famous entertainer and child-afficiando, his biographers have described him as a man who held himself to high moral standards. Although Carroll never attained full priesthood, he did take his holy orders, and in Victorian times, a clergyman having children over for tea wasn’t considered especially scandalous. He simply loved the innocence of childhood.
On a scorching hot July 4th in 1862 on the river Thames, he was, as usual, hanging out with Alice Liddell and her sisters. As they begged for a story, he unwillingly told them the story of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. He hadn’t written a single word down, and it was only after Liddell’s incessant nagging that Carroll did finally put pen to paper (because kids are amazing at reminding grownups what they should be doing). So can I get all of you take a second out of your day to thank Ms. Liddell? It’s only because of her that generations of artists, photographers and writers were able to be influenced by this wonderful work of imagination. Let’s hear an amen to that!
The Library has loads of books based off of Mr. Carroll’s works. Let’s take a look at just a few of the awesome titles:
- Alice’s Pop-Up Wonderland by Nick Denchfield: This title is only available at CLP Main’s Children’s department and does not circulate, but is a fun way to explore Wonderland.
- The Annotated Alice by Lewis Carroll: Looking for a little more in-depth information on your favorite author and his brilliant wordplay by the world’s foremost expert on Carroll? This is the place to start.
- Alice in Wonderland: A Graphic Novel by Alessandro Ferrari: If you’re looking for the classic book, but with an artistic twist, look no further than this fun graphic novel.
- Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter
- I Am Alice: Body Swamp in Wonderland
- Alice in the Country of Hearts
- After Alice by Gregory McGuire
- Lewis Carroll: A Biography by Morton N. Cohen
Share your favorite Alice spin-offs or tributes in the comments!