The Picture Book Buzz

Alice's Magic Garden - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

September 21, 2018

In a climate where kindness to others and nature is needed with increasing urgency comes a cute book that draws on Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and reminds me a bit of The Secret Garden and A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  

 

Using a sharp dichotomy to represent life in a rigid school and a garden full of playful fun and imagination, Henry Herz and Natalie Hoops have created an interesting prequel.

 

 

Alice's Magic Garden: Before the Rabbit Hole

 

Author: Henry Herz

 

Illustrator: Natalie Hoops

 

Publisher: Famillius, LLC. (2018)

 

Ages: 4-7

 

Fiction

 

Themes:

Imagination, kindness, and whimsy.

 

Synopsis (from Amazon):

Curiouser and curiouser!

 

In this imaginative prequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Alice finds herself at a gray, dreary boarding school that is decidedly up the rabbit hole. From the relentless clocks to the beastly students, Alice's world is void of color and cheer--until Alice finds a secret garden and begins tending its wilting inhabitants. When Alice's love touches an ordinary caterpillar, a lory bird, and a white rabbit, magical things will happen--and that, as you know, is just the beginning of the story. Filled with literary allusions and clever nods to its classic roots, Alice's Magic Garden is a delightful prequel that begs an escape to the whimsy of Wonderland.

 

Opening:

Alice lived at the dearest boarding school in all of England.

The students wore stiff, grey uniforms.

Great grey clocks ticked off slow, grey minutes.

The drab, dusty rooms even smelled grey.

 

What I liked about this book:

Henry Herz's use of color in the text ("grey uniforms & clocks and rooms that smelled grey") and Natalie Hoops' illustrations poignantly portrays a dull life without imagination or fun.  One full of bland food and dour classmates.

Text © Henry Herz, 2018. Image © Natalie Hoops, 2018.

 

When Alice flees her life of "unending grey," she discovers an untended garden, vibrant with color. As Alice tenderly cares for the plants and animals within the garden her developing sense of play and fantasy brings color into her life. (A bit like Mary Lenox's transformation in her garden).

Text © Henry Herz, 2018. Image © Natalie Hoops, 2018.

 

When her fantastical friends (all from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland) repay her kindness with gifts of tarts, a watch, and a decorated attic room (a little reminiscent of the fantastical change to Sarah Crewe's bleak room), the jealousy of Alice's classmates is palpable. 

Text © Henry Herz, 2018. Image © Natalie Hoops, 2018.

 

Although it is unclear if the remaining scenes occur at the school, Alice's kindness and imagination creates friends who continued to share imaginative adventures for the rest of her life.

 

This picture book makes a strong statement that life without fun and imagination is dull and grey. That being able to play and imagine like a child gives life its color. Perhaps we should be focusing more on incorporating experiential learning, increased free play, and acts of kindness (like Norway and Japan), than shoving information into seated, dull brains.  

 

In the back matter, Henry lists a number of the textual elements and illustrations drawn from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. But there are numerous other story elements, such as the cascading card deck that "chases" Alice and the tag "eat me," to be found throughout the book. I hope you enjoy looking for them.

 

Resources:

- find other story elements from Alice's Adventure in Wonderland in this book;

- write or draw a picture of a prequel, or beginning, to your favorite story?

- wander through a garden, what magic can you find there?

- plant a garden or grow seeds in see-through plastic cups to watch some garden magic; and/or

- show a special kindness to another person or an animal.

 

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

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