April 5, 2016

The Wonder of Wonderland

Few stories have been illustrated in such creative ways than Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. John Tenniel's illustrations are classic and timeless (I consider them to be the best), but it's always fun to look at how other illustrators interpret the famous story of a girl whose boredom leads to the adventure of a lifetime. Carroll's text lends itself well to quirky, vibrant, and nonsensical illustrations, and I am excited to share my list of favorites.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Illustrated by Andrea D'Aquino

The version that inspired today's post is Andrea D'Aquino's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The design of this book is dead-on. Now, normally the artwork on the cover should be enough to pull you in, and it definitely is in this case: the cover features the pivotal scene of Alice being dumped out into Wonderland after falling down the hole. But the absolute best part of the book's design is that, when the book is closed, you can see that the pages are painted on the sides. If the cover somehow didn't draw you in, this beautiful piece of design will.

D'Aquino's book opens with the infamous image of Alice's neck stretching up, but she adds her own flair to it as if to signal that what we are about to see is her personal spin on the story. D'Aquino's watercolor and collage illustrations are interspersed throughout the text, often taking up whole pages or spreads to emphasize events.

Illustrated by Yelena Bryksenkova

While I was in the UK for business last year, I was super lucky to stumble upon Yelena Bryksenkova's leporello Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Readers can flip through the images like a book or expand it out like an accordion to follow the story of Alice more linearly. We get framed, hand-written text, as well as type-writen text at the bottom of each panel, both of which serve to narrate the story: the hand-lettering features direct quotes from Carroll's version, and the type-written text allows Bryksenkova to speed up the narrative through summary.

The pen and acryla gouache illustrations have a vintage feel, with muted colors and lots of patterning, and they walk an impressive line between sweet and quirky. You can see the feeling of wonder and subservience in Alice's postures and gestures as she appears small against the other characters who end up guiding her journey. The unique style of the book--accordion AND very tall--allows for a unique retelling of the story, and Bryksenkova knows how to hit all the major events of the story in the 14 available panels.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Illustrated by Robert Sabuda

I have long, long been a fan of Robert Sabuda, and his pop-up adaptation of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is absolutely incredible (so much so that I actually own it in multiple languages). The amount of thought and effort that goes into Sabuda's books could take up a whole blog post by itself, but I'm going to try really hard to stay on point. Every spread features a large, colorful, and masterfully-crafted pop-up, with smaller, additional pages and pop-ups within each spread as well.

Sabuda does a wonderful job of imitating Tenniel's original style in his illustrations, giving Sabuda's interpretation an authentic and respectful feel. Of course, this "feel" is hugely enhanced by the color that Sabuda injects into each illustration, as well as the 3-D nature of the pop-up style.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Illustrated by Camille Rose Garcia

Next up is Camille Rose Garcia's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Garcia's paintings are dark in tone and often color, giving Garcia the opportunity to truly explore the sinister side of Carroll's tale. Her illustrations range from small vignettes to whole spreads, with everything in-between.

Her full-page and full-spread illustrations are breath-taking. Garcia fills her illustrations to the brim with text, objects, and colorful, dripping paints that enhance the feeling of despair and creepiness in the images. It's splotchy and messy and amazing.

Alice in Wonderland
Written by Alison Oliver and illustrated by Jennifer Adams

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Alison Oliver and Jennifer Adams' board book Alice in Wonderland. This duo does a clever and colorful job of morphing classic stories into concept/primer books, and the concept they focus on for their Alice book is colors--white rabbit, orange cat, red hearts, etc.

The best part of these books is the detail. Oliver manages to slip in small references throughout each image: the text might only say "brown hat," but we see the Mad Hatter, his tea cup, and the little bat, helping readers to understand that there's a larger story beyond just the text. It helps to encourage discussion and positions the book not only as a primer for colors, but a primer for the larger Alice story in the future. Pretty brilliant!