Monday, September 22, 2008

Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland, retold by Jon Scieszka, pictures by Mary Blair - review

Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland, retold by Jon Scieszka, pictures by Mary Blair
Now here's a coincidence worthy of Lewis Carroll: I just last night finished reading the AMAZING graphic novel Alice In Sunderland by Bryan Talbot, an encyclopedic look at the history of Sunderland, in the northeast of England, informed by the lives of Charles Dodgson and Alice Liddell. It is loaded with information both interesting (George Washington's family crest was stars and stripes) and trivial (Bilbao's football team was founded by emigre Sunderland factory workers). History braids together like a slow river in that book.

Talbot is, among other things, something of a collector of versions of Alice. Toward the end of Alice in Sunderland, there must be four pages with tiny thumbnail representations of the covers of those books, and he is alarmed and amazed when he hears a rumor that Kelly Osbourne (Ozzy's daughter) is coming to Sunderland to film something called Malice in Sunderland.

The book is so dense and so layered that it left me feeling a little spacy. Good graphic novels do that to me - I get so caught up in the narrative and the drawn world of the novel that I walk around preoccupied and ditzy for a little while.

So I was a bit suspicious when I saw the above book on the shelf. It's not another retelling of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, no, it's a retelling of the Disney movie "Alice in Wonderland." "How meta," I thought to myself. "And just when you've finished, like, a meta Bible on Alice. You are making this up."

But no. What it is, though, is another labor of love based on Alice. Mary Blair, creator of the freaky character designs for "It's a Small World," did the original concept work for the Disney movie. These paintings, full of movement and drenched with color, have been resurrected for this edition, with a fine story condensation by National Ambassador for Young People's Literature Jon Scieszka, whose name I can finally spell correctly on the first try. "Salaam, Mr. Ambassador! Please continue to use your great power for good!"

(Although I really have to admit, I never liked Alice in Wonderland. Freaked me right out.)

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