I have a love for children and teen literature, so you can imagine my surprise and glee when I discovered my school was offering a Children's Literature course this semester. The first novels we're studying this semester is, obviously, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I had already read these two stories in high school, but I unfortunately owned a version that didn't explain any of the many in-jokes that happen throughout the story. My prof made it mandatory that we read the Norton Critical edition, which was infinitely better. I'm not going to bother with my review behind an LJ cut; everyone knows this story, so I really don't think spoilers is an issue here. :P
When I initially read this book in high school, I wasn't that impressed by it. My preconceptions of this movie were completely tinted with what the movie adaptations have shown me over the years: I expected nonsense yes, and there's definitely a lot of it in Alice
but the original tale is a lot more concerned with poking fun at the views of childhood and children's education that were the norm of its time. I didn't know that when I first read Alice
which really stunted my first reading. The second time around though, it was much more enjoyable with Norton's footnotes. Both tales are also really concerned with word play and the arbitrariness of words and names. Again, this was all over my head during my first reading. Thanks to this wonderful edition though, I got a lot more of these jokes.
I don't have much to say about the stories, because really, everyone knows them, or at least aspects of them. I do want to talk about this Norton Critical edition though, because it's really good. Like I mentioned, it has all kinds of footnotes throughout the story, to clarify a lot of the jokes and remarks that Carroll was making. The context adds a level of enjoyment to the tales. This edition also features all kinds of essays and background information on Lewis Carroll himself, which delves into how he was inspired to write the tale, and many aspects of his life. I don't usually like reading that kind of stuff, but this Norton edition made a lot of those facts concise, and stuck to the important stuff. The added background information also added context to the texts as a whole. I didn't get a chance to get to the essays yet, but I definitely want to at some point.
Overall, these two stories are really quite wonderful, once you add some context and know where Carroll was coming from. I'm glad I got a chance to re-read them with this new insight. It elevated my enjoyment of the stories quite a bit. :)