Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There – Lewis Carroll

Book # 854

REVIEWER: Kara


TTLG

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream—
Lingering in the golden gleam—
Life, what is it but a dream?

For me, this second installment about Alice is even more wonderful than the first (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), and that isn’t an easy feat! Both books feature Alice, a 7-year-old girl with a wildly vivid imagination. In her dreams, she enters magical worlds populated by smart and witty animals and everyday objects. She fearlessly explores, makes friends, and learns, taking the twists and turns of logic and magic that constantly alter the reality around her in stride. For child and adult readers alike, this is about as much fun as literature can be.

The reason I so love Through the Looking Glass, And What Alice Found There is its excellent poetry. The book contains both Jabberwocky, a poem stuffed with old-fashioned words that Alice needs help from others to decipher, and The Walrus and the Carpenter, a lovely poem with both sad and silly moments that has stuck with me as a favorite since my childhood.

What Carroll does so well is lift up and glorify the witty and imaginative ways that children think about words and logic as they grow and learn. He gives credence to what seems silly and absurd, and offers the puns, riddles, jokes, and even nonsense that children love and adults tend to groan about. He refrains from preaching or infantilizing, and an authentic sense of child-like wonder at the world pervades the book.

I highly recommend both of Lewis Carroll’s stories about Alice as family read-aloud options – there’s no better way to experience them.

Reviewer Focus: Inspirational Reads

Welcome to a new feature for 2015, our Reviewer Focus posts.

Over the course of the year we are going to recap the wonderful reviews we have already posted, but this time by the reviewer who contributed them.  Just like a favourite author we sometimes find ourselves in tune with the opinions of one reviewer or another.  Here’s your chance to see if one of our lovely folk hits the button for you.

To start us off, we will be looking at the awesome contribution of Tori.  Going by the handle of Inspirational Reads, she has contributed an enormous 33 reviews !!
Sadly for us she has hung up her editorial boots here at 1001, but we are hoping she will find time to add one or two more reviews to her outstanding total so far.


Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston

Book # 609

REVIEWER: Kara


TEWWG

In the opening scene, Janie has just returned home after running away with Tea Cake, a young man she fell in love with. Arriving at her house, she tells the story of her life to her friend Pheoby; as readers we are listening in to the tale. Beginning in her youth, Janie has several bad relationships. Her first husband is kind, but she doesn’t love him. Her second is successful and charismatic, but she feels as though she has been placed on a pedestal, unable to be part of her community. When Janie finally gains her independence, it is Tea Cake whose style of love allows her to finally do and be what she has always wanted.

This is an action-packed novel and the story held me unceasingly throughout. The climactic scene between Janie and Tea Cake was terrifying, heartbreaking, and exultant all at once. I loved Janie’s tone and powerful belief in herself and her right to reach out and take the life and love she wants. She’s a smart and strong woman who has learned from her difficult life experiences and the life-altering decisions that were made for her by being ready and willing to take risks:

Pheoby: “…But you’re takin’ uh awful chance.”
Janie: “No mo’ than Ah took befo’ and no mo’ than anybody else takes when dey gits married. It always changes folks, and sometimes it brings out dirt and meanness dat even de person didn’t know they had in ’em theyselves.”

The discussion of race from Janie’s (and probably also Hurston’s) perspective was illuminating for me. I was particularly interested in Janie’s response to her grandmother’s hopes for her, which is tied up in both race and gender:

“She was born in slavery time when folks, dat is black folks, didn’t sit down anytime dey felt lak it. So sittin’ on porches lak de white madam looked lak uh mighty fine thing tuh her. Dat’s whut she wanted for me — don’t keer whut it cost. Git up on uh high chair and sit dere. She didn’t have time tuh think whut tuh do after you got up on de stool uh do nothin’. De object wuz tuh git dere. So ah got up on de high stool lak she told me, but Pheoby, Ah done nearly languished tuh death up dere.”

It’s clear that Janie understands that her grandmother wanted only the best for her. She wanted Janie to have what she never could. But having experienced it, Janie now knows the truth: that her grandmother’s greatest hope was not what she needs or wants, and that both being black and being female will keep her from ever really having what she wants.

My favorite part of the book is right at the very end, when Janie tells Pheoby that she can tell all the nosy neighbors anything she wants to tell them – she trusts her friend and cares little about what the others think of her. She also shares two lessons (see the quotations below) she has learned through her experiences, one about love and one about life. Both are worth remembering.

“Then you must tell ’em dat love ain’t somethin’ lak uh grindstone dat’s de same thing everywhere and do de same thing tuh everything it touch. Love is lak de sea. It’s uh movin thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.”

“Two things everybody’s got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin’ fuh theyselves.”