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Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll
Narrated by Jim Dale, unabridged
Random House Audio, 2 hours, 57 minutes

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1898), better known by the pen name Lewis Carroll, was an English author, mathematician, logician, Anglican and photographer. His most famous writings are Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass as well as the poems "The Hunting of the Snark" and "Jabberwocky," all considered to be within the genre of literary nonsense.

Lewis Carroll Society
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sarah Trowbridge

I consider Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its companion novel Through the Looking Glass to be bedrock components of childhood literature. It was my assumption, as I began planning this review, that these works would be well known to most adult readers, who would have read one or both books, or at least have had them read aloud. However, in a small informal survey I took of adult readers of various ages and both genders, the most that one or two of the older ones could allow was that "maybe" they had read it "once, a long, LONG time ago." It seemed, at best, a dim memory that had left little in the way of a lasting impression. Several people mentioned that, of course, they had seen the Disney movie. My response to this is that saying you know Alice because you have seen the Disney movie is like saying you have eaten Italian cuisine because you have eaten a can of SpaghettiOs®.

By contrast, I was fortunate enough to grow up in a house that had audiobooks of both of the Alice novels, in an era before they were known as audiobooks. These were great ponderous sets, consisting of a dozen or so long-playing vinyl records each, and each with a companion hardback book so the listener could read along while gazing at the marvelous John Tenniel illustrations. It was a great treat to be allowed to monopolize the family stereo system for a Sunday afternoon, to lie sprawled on the living room carpet with the familiar red book propped up and the mellifluous tones of Cyril Ritchard issuing from the speakers, and to travel down the rabbit hole or through the looking glass with Alice.

From my own long experience, then, I know that Alice's Adventures in Wonderland makes for great listening, and that, in fact, the reader's understanding of Lewis Carroll's language and humor can be greatly enhanced by hearing it interpreted by a talented performer. The late Cyril Ritchard, as the first Alice reader I heard and the favorite of my childhood, will always be the gold standard for me, but I am pleased to report that in this new audiobook edition, the wonderfully talented Jim Dale renders a memorable performance that gloriously delivers Alice to a new generation of reader-listeners. Jim Dale will be familiar to many listeners as the reader of the US editions of the Harry Potter audiobooks, and he brings the same boundless energy and skill with vocal characterization to the world of Lewis Carroll. From the opening scene in which Alice wonders "what is the use of a book... without pictures or conversation," Dale takes ownership of the young protagonist's viewpoint, and voices her quite convincingly. Alice proceeds to encounter a dizzying parade of characters of many different species and temperaments, all capably given voice by this versatile narrator: the White Rabbit, with his gloves and fan; the Duchess and her pig-baby; the Cheshire Cat with his astonishingly persistent grin; little Bill the lizard; the Queen of Hearts, and all the rest. The poems and songs that season the text benefit as well from Dale's treatment, from "How Doth the Little Crocodile" to "The Lobster Quadrille."

Dale skillfully handles the wordplay for which Lewis Carroll is well known, and in speaking the words aloud, often clarifies their meaning for the reader. Indeed, without listening to a British performer read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, what American child is likely to understand the joke when the Mock Turtle explains that his teacher was a turtle, but the students called him Tortoise, "because he taught us"? Cyril Ritchard made this joke work for me, decades ago, and Jim Dale does the same in this new recording. Ideally, the listener will have in hand a copy of the book, with the original Tenniel line drawings, and be able to combine the heard and seen components of the story. Either way, with or without the support of the printed text, Jim Dale nimbly brings the denizens of Wonderland to life, enriching the Alice experience for today's audience. Here's hoping he is on deck to narrate an audio edition of Through the Looking Glass as well.

Copyright © 2008 Sarah Trowbridge

Sarah Trowbridge reads (and listens) compulsively, chronically, and eclectically. She is a public librarian in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia.

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