* Prices may differ from that shown
Robert Sabuda is a 'paper engineer' and popup book artist. His stunning popup sculptures have brought exciting new dimensions to traditional tales such as The Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan and Beauty and the Beast. Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland has always been a special favourite of mine, so I found it hard to resist this gorgeous book. Fortunately, my youngest daughter, who was 10 at the time, had developed an interest in the story too, so I felt I could justify the purchase. Alice in Wonderland is one of those stories that can be read on different levels and I think its whimsical, atmospheric charm is something that people of all ages can appreciate. This book would make a superb gift and it would look delightful on any bookshelf with its gold lettering on the front and spine, its cheery purple background and picture of Alice chasing after the White Rabbit.
Curiouser and Curiouser.....
This book consists of six full-page spreads depicting big, beautiful popup scenes from the story. The first spread shows Alice and her sister down by the riverbank and the White Rabbit emerging out of the magnificent 3D forest. The next spread presents the White Rabbit's house, which is one of my favourite scenes. Alice has drunk a potion that has made her grow so big that her head is pressed against the ceiling. In this popup scene her leg sticks out of the chimney and her arm protrudes through the window. You can even peep through a cellophane window and see poor Alice's forlorn face. The third spread introduces us to the Duchess's chaotic kitchen and the fourth spread depicts the Hatter's tea party. The next spread takes us to a very unusual croquet match. My favourite spread of all is the last one, which shows a spectacular arch of cards rising up in the air and fluttering down on a frightened Alice. In addition to the six main spreads, there are tiny books within the main book, which contain miniature popup surprises.
Reading this book is an amazing, magical experience. The craftsmanship that has gone into creating it is staggering. No matter how many times I look at it, I just can't get over how intricate and detailed the popup illustrations are. They are in the style of the illustrations by John Tenniel in the Lewis Carroll original, which gives the book a nice old-fashioned feel. At first I felt a little afraid to turn the pages in case I tore something. It seemed so fragile. Certainly I would not recommend this book for young children to read alone. Even if a parent or teacher was handling the book and showing the child the pictures, I'm sure most really young kids would be unable to resist the temptation to reach out and touch the popup sculptures, with the risk of causing damage. It's worth keeping it for when they are a little bit older. I am sure most children and adults would be enthralled by this book. It is like witnessing a conjuring trick, seeing a magnificent paper statue rising out of a book and then folding back down again. I can't help being gob smacked and wondering how on earth it all works. I would say this book is best suited to children aged 8-10 and over, slightly younger if you have a child who is very careful with his/her possessions, but definitely not one for the under fives. Strange as it may seem, I sometimes take this book up to bed with me when I want to unwind. I love the dreamy aspects of the story and the fantastical creatures. There is something restful and calming about browsing it.
Although abridged, the story is faithful to the original. It provides a good introduction for a child who is curious about the story but not quite ready to read the lengthier version. Some of the language used is still a little tricky, but much of the word play, riddles and nonsense poems of the original has been left out so it is simpler for a child to follow. The story is contained in a separate pocket at the edge of each page, which leaves plenty of room for the main popups, so that the visual effects really do look larger than life as they burst out of the pages, making you feel that you are there in Wonderland with Alice, sharing her adventures.
What a wonderful dream.....
For those who aren't familiar with the book, Alice in Wonderland is about a little girl who enters a colourful dream world, after following a white rabbit down a rabbit hole. In many respects the story of Alice in Wonderland is rather disturbing even in this somewhat edited form and it contains a lot of elements that wouldn't pass muster if presented for publication in our modern era. The queen's obsession with chopping off heads and the caterpillar smoking a hookah pipe don't exactly tick the politically correct boxes, nor are Alice's words - "Dear dear! How queer everything is today!" often uttered in children's books nowadays. My daughter knew this story was written a long time ago (published in 1865) and I think this was part of its charm for her. She found it weird but was intrigued by that weirdness. She liked the disjointed structure of the story, which is what gives it such a dreamlike ambience. My daughter is now 13 and at an age when she appreciates Alice in Wonderland for its psychological aspects. She still looks at this book now and again. She is starting to be fascinated by the power of the mind and imagination and she's also intrigued by dreams, so much so that she keeps a dream diary of her own. She often compares her own dreams to the episodes in Alice and Wonderland.
My daughter particularly loved the character of the Cheshire Cat and the way that it vanishes - "beginning with the tail and ending with the grin." As is often the case with dreams, things happen in this story which seem bizarre but never get elucidated. When Alice asks the Duchess why her cat grins so much, she gets the reply, "it's a Cheshire Cat" and you are none the wiser for that so-called explanation! Similarly, Alice sees the Hatter and the March Hare trying to put the Dormouse into the teapot, with absolutely no indication as to why. Yes, it is confusing, but that is the point. It is exploring a dream world and dreams do not follow any logical sequence. Equally surreal is the croquet match with live flamingos as mallets! Other typically dreamlike things are the sensation of falling that Alice experiences when she goes down the rabbit hole - "down, down, down, would the fall never come to an end?" and the way that one thing inexplicably changes into another, such as the Duchess's baby turning into a pig! Of course, you don't have to read this book for its psychological qualities but can merely enjoy it as a rather unusual tale involving bizarre, random happenings.
Rabbit holes, vanishing cats and painting the roses red
I love the way that the popups add an extra spark to the reader's imagination, enhancing the text. For example, when Alice follows the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole she finds herself falling down a deep well. We are told, "either the well was very deep or she fell very slowly for she had plenty of time to look about her" and she sees lots of cupboards and bookshelves. The words create a picture in our minds, but there is also a pull-up tab with a hole to look inside (like a Victorian peep show) to watch Alice falling and see the things she sees.
Many of the popups have moving parts, which adds to the fun. For instance, the smoking caterpillar wriggles, the gryphon flaps its wings, we see Alice shrink and grow in size and we can watch the Cheshire Cat vanish. In one picture a cellophane insert changes the colour of a rose from white to red as the gardener lifts his paintbrush. The illustrations are given a sense of texture by the use of special materials, such as foil to add a metallic shine to the pots and pans in the Duchess's kitchen and felt to give a furry quality to creatures like the White Rabbit and the Cheshire Cat.
Would I recommend this book?
As an introduction to Alice in Wonderland and for a visual treat, yes. Even in this abridged form, it is quite a rambling, complicated story and some children might have difficulty following it, but the stunning illustrations certainly help to capture the imagination and help a young reader to focus on the main points of the story. After reading the popup book, my daughter was keen to progress to the unabridged version of Alice in Wonderland. She wanted more detail and, much as she loved the popups, she also likes to get lost in her own imagination and picture things in her own way. I am pleased to report that all of the popups in my copy of the book functioned as they were supposed to. (There is nothing more frustrating than a tab that won't pull up, or a popup that won't fold back down again.) It is clearly well made. It's definitely something that has to be looked after though, not a book that could handle a lot of wear and tear. I absolutely treasure this book and see it as something that will be passed down to different generations of my family and enjoyed. It is certainly a charming way to enjoy one of the classics of English literature and a must for any keen collector of Wonderland-themed merchandise, like myself. The book can be purchased new from Amazon for £10.39.