Alice in Wonderland
by Paul Buchheit
15 chapters ~ 25 color illustrations ~ 58 pages
To Order: Amazon
Reviewed by Michael Escoubas
In an age where rhyme seemingly has fallen out of vogue, Paul Buchheit has just revived it. Alice in Wonderland is an artistic fairyland, written in Alexandrine rhyming couplets. The Alexandrine or Iambic Hexameter line features 12 syllables, perfect for what occasions its use. Iambic feet facilitate a walk-along cadence as the story unfolds. I scanned lines at random and was impressed. Yep, 12 syllables in each line. Buchheit tells Alice’s story without a hint of forced rhyming. None of this, “Well, now I’ve gotta come up with a rhyme, oh, gosh, let me check with rhyme-zone.” Not a chance, this poet’s product is as smooth as gravy on mashed potatoes!
Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) wrote his fantasy in 1862. Its protagonist is Alice Liddell. The penname for Charles L. Dodgson, the author was a poet, illustrator, storyteller, and mathe-matician. Close to Alice and her family, Carroll created his story at 10-year-old Alice’s request. The narrative was written while on a boating and picnicking trip near Oxford, England, with Alice and her sisters. Over time the story became one of the most popular examples of the fantasy genre. Alice in Wonderland enjoyed critical acclaim which led to a sequel, Through the Looking Glass. The original story, in later years, became a significant source of income and notoriety for Ms. Liddell.
Boredom, Talking White Rabbits, and Falling, Falling, Falling
While many have tried to attach political, psychological, or religious undertones to Alice in Wonderland, your reviewer chooses to treat it as a child’s imaginative journey. Paul Buchheit transports himself seamlessly into a child’s world. (More of us should be so inclined!) The narrative is structured in 15 brief chapters, single chapters just the right length for a bedtime read:
How bored was Alice! Sitting by the riverside,
With nothing much to do, her sister occupied
beside her with a book, a dullish exercise
without a single page of art to please her eyes
In fact, Alice is lazy. Rather than move about picking daisies (an option requiring motivation and energy), she chooses to lay down and dream. Remarkable things happen:
… … … As she rested, though, a white
and wide-eyed rabbit hurried by, a pleasant sight
but unremarkable enough on normal days,
yet now there came about a matter to amaze
a little girl in any mood: the rabbit talked!
“Oh dear, oh dear, I shall be late!” he said and walked
Of course, Alice, to her chagrin, could not get over how “unbunnywise” all of this was. She gives herself over to the ever-increasing evocations of her hyperactive imagination.
Once in the rabbit hole, Alice finds tiny doors, drinks a potion that shrinks her just enough to squeeze through. Then, inexplicably, her size increases, which presents another set of challenges … enough to make Alice sit and weep.
Animals and a Hookah-Smoking Caterpillar
Masterfully illustrated by Manahil Khan, Alice in Wonderland presents a stunning array of animals:
As Alice shrunk again, a freakish episode
began: a nearby pool of water overflowed
with parrots, eagles, dodos, ducks, and many more.
So Alice led the crowd of animals to shore.
What Buchheit does with these animals and more, in his world, will make you shudder with delight! Your reviewer got so involved he had to remind himself that this is merely fantasy!
I would be remiss by did not mentioning the “Hookah-Smoking” caterpillar. Unfamiliar to me, I resorted to the Internet to learn more about hookah pipes. What I found out was an education. I encourage the reader to do the same.
The Cheshire Cat, Mad-Hatter and Waking Up
As Alice continues her journey, the pace quickens with the introduction of many new characters and impossible experiences made possible as only fantasy can do. The Cheshire cat helps Alice find her way to the Mad-Hatter’s mad tea party, then goes away but leaves his grin behind!
As in all good dreams, the dream must come to an end. As her sister gently wakes her up, Alice muses:
… … … “Oh dear, I dreamed
so very much, and everybody IN it seemed
so curious,” … … …
In an age of “brutal” realism and “brazen” presentation of life, the world of Alice in Wonderland, is a welcome and delightful respite.