Every week or two Stacy and Mischenko will pick two books that we’ve recently read that match the letter of the week. This weeks letter is…
You can see our book picks including reviews below.
# 1 – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – 4****
I really enjoyed this, and being read by Michael York and a distinctive touch. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is popularly known to many as a children’s book, and Lewis Carroll admitted to writing it for the little girls of the Dean of the college he taught at. A quote for C. S. Lewis, in The Three Ways of Writing For Children (1952), “A children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story. The good ones last, because a children’s story is the best art-form for something you have to say.” Upon learning that there were other aspects of the book than simply just a children’s story, I wanted to read it to see what those were. Alice’s Adventures…. has been looked at in other ways over the years, determining there were many other elements employed into the story including:
1) satire of the corrupt judicial and political systems in Victorian England, as well as their abuse of power
2) satire of British imperialism and ethnocentrism
3) satire of social and cultural elements of Victorian society, such as its rigid educational system, social conventions, manners and etiquette
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has been examined in many ways: as an exploration of the mind and thought practices, with the aim of finding a hidden meaning dealing with math and logic (since Lewis was also a mathematician), even as a symptom of the use of drugs (which is interesting, give Lewis Carroll’s favorite book was Confessions of an English Opium Eater, and there were many times I thought Lewis Carroll must have been tripping on some serious Laudanum when writing) and as a political satire/ analogy. Lewis Carroll was also known for his photography hobby. He is also known to say that he liked little children, except little boys. The fact that many photographs have been found in his collection with little girls scantily clad, and in various poses, including on his lap, and in light of his comment, have led some to believe that the book has references to pedophilia, but since he is not alive to defend himself, I will avoid that.
The original illustrator of Alice was Sir John Tenniel, who was a famous cartoonist for Punch Magazine, a periodical famous in Victorian England for its satire writing and cartoons.
Since history is my thing, I was interested in the historical analogy. It is believed it is one of two entirely different analogies of two different eras, and I can see where both make sense. They are the Victorian and The War of the Roses, or the English Civil War. The main characters in each analogy are as follows:
Wonderland= Victorian England
Queen of Hearts= Queen Victoria
Alice= symbol of British colonization and ethnocentrism, imperialism
White Rabbit= new awareness, realization, the fact not everything is at it seems, or an overnervous minor political functionary, fearful of displeasing Queen Victoria, awed by people of power, concerned with appearances before superiors
King of Hearts= Prince Albert
Caterpillar= guru with many metaphysical questions, which is interesting considering the British colonization of India
Mad Hatter= Benjamin Disraeli
Mock Turtle & Gryphon= satires of college alumnus
The War of The Roses, or English Civil War (this analogy attributed to C. W. Giles, 1928):
Queen of Hearts= Queen Margaret
King of Hearts= Henry VI
Knave of Wonderland= Duke of York
Duchess= Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester, or Duchess Margaretha Mattausch (who was considered the ugliest woman in history and whom Sir John Tenniel used her portrait as a basis for his illustration of “Duchess”
Baby= Richard of Gloucester, who became Richard III
Cheshire Cat= Sir William Catesby, follower of Richard III, and speaker of the House of Commons
White King= Richard’s elder brother, Edward IV
Mad Hatter= Warwick the Kingmaker; Mad Hatter is also identified as one of King Edward’s messengers, Hatta
March Hare= King Edward’s messenger, Haigha; also identified as impersonal Yorkist claim to throne based on descent from Mortimer, Earl of March, heir to Richard II
Fall of Humpty Dumpty, attended by complete army of White King= horrible defeat of the Lancastrians at Toulton
Tweedledum & Tweedledee not referring to the War of The Roses, but instead to the ancient English kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex, which ceased their constant bickering to jointly resist the Danish “Raven”, which is one of many references in Alice to earlier history, another which would be:
Father William and the Young Man= William the Conqueror and Rufus
So whichever theory as to the deeper meaning of Alice and her adventures you would subscribe to, it is an enjoyable and fascinating read.
#2 – Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman – 4****
** spoiler alert ** P. D. Eastman not only wrote but also illustrated Are You My Mother? It is a story of a bird who hatches while his mother is out looking for food for him, and thus, he has no idea what she looks like. So, he decides to go on a search to find her. Every creature, piece of machinery, and mode of transportation he encounters gets asked the question “Are you my mother?”, illustrating the special bond between a mother and her child. Miraculously, he is returned home to his nest by a steam shovel just in time for his mother’s return with lunch. It is a beloved story for millions of children around the world, and been in continuous publication since its debut in 1960. I thought it was interesting that Mr. Eastman chose to make his “the cat in the hat himself and P. D. Eastman” (on the original anyway), has only added to the confusion and furthering the myth that both authors were the same man. His popularity among children and their parents cannot be denied– Random House has sold over 30 million of his books world wide.
#1 Age of Myth (The Legends of the First Empire, #1) by Michael J. Sullivan
Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan is the first book in the Legends of the First Empire series. I’ve been wanting to read Michael Sullivan’s books for some time and decided I’d start with Age of Myth after learning that it was the first book in a new series and in the Riyria world 3,000 years prior. I went into the book completely blind, not having a clue what to expect.
I’ll start by saying I enjoyed this fantasy world. I loved all the characters including Raithe (God Killer), Malcolm, Suri & Minna, and Persephone. I knew in the first part of the book that Raithe would be a favorite. There’s something great about an author that can make me feel connected to characters and that’s exactly how I felt when reading this book. I loved how the three main characters and plots come together, the interaction, development and twists -all of it. I felt like I had a good visual of the characters in my mind as well. I was pleased with every part of the book and happy with the ending too. It was an easy and surprisingly fast read. The glossary of terms and names in the back were helpful.
I’m really excited to see what’s going to happen in the next book and I’m astonished that the author has already written all of the other five books for this series. Getting a sneak peak into Age of Swords was unexpected. How awesome is that!
I’m not a fantasy expert, but I think anyone who enjoys fantasy will like this book.
#2 Above Hallowed Ground: A Photographic Record of September 11, 2001 by Photographers of the NYC Police Department.
Above Hallowed Ground: A Photographic Record of September 11, 2001 is a 192 page book containing hundreds of full color photographs in chronological order taken on September 11th, the days following the terrorist attacks, and recovery efforts up until April 2002.
I think most people can remember exactly what they were doing the morning of September 11th, 2001, during the deadliest terrorist attacks in America. I can still remember watching television that morning and remember how helpless I felt. During this time police and fire personnel rushed to the scene of the attacks to save lives. Hundreds of fireman went up into the towers knowing that it was possible they’d never return. More than 400 police officers and firefighters were killed on this horrific day and this book captures the courage of those people who were willing to march into danger to save others.
The book is mainly comprised of photos taken by multiple members of the NYC Police Department and doesn’t contain much in the way of text past the photograph descriptions. This is by far one of the BEST photographic remembrance books which contains photographs from the morning of September 11th and beyond that hadn’t previously been published. I was personally touched by all the photographs of the medical personnel, fireman, workers, and police officers who stayed and spent day after day working toward the recovery efforts. Some of these pictures are of the fireman who searched tirelessly for days in hopes of locating their fallen comrades.
Many of the most breathtaking photos were taken by an off duty detective by the name of Dave Fitzpatrick. That very morning, he boarded a helicopter after hearing about the first attack on the north tower and spent all day taking thousands of aerial photographs. Others took photos from the ground as they were engulfed in smoke, debris and dust.
This book is extremely emotional and reminds us that we must never forget this day. I’m very glad to have it as part of my September 11th book collection.
The book is dedicated to the twenty-three members of the NYC Police Dept. that sacrificed their lives on September 11th, 2001.
Next week will be Letter B. You can check back with us every week to see what we’re reading.