What happens in Wonderland when Alice isn't there?
The authors of Return to Wonderland, a collection of short stories inspired by Lewis Carroll’s original tale, share their love for Wonderland.
This is Wonderland as you've never seen it before! Mad Hatter’s tea parties, flamingo croquet and disappearing cats – Lewis Carroll’s surreal and much-loved children’s story is certainly full of unforgettable images and characters. In the wonderful new short story collection, Return to Wonderland, eleven best-selling authors have created fantastical new stories that expose ongoings in Wonderland when Alice isn't the focus . . . Find out below about the inspiration behind each amazing story, as each author shares their love for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and the inspiration behind their stories.
Peter Bunzl, author of 'Acorns, Biscuits and Treacle'
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was among my favourite books as a kid. It influenced one of my first stories, written aged ten, about a boy stranded on a desert island who, like Alice, encounters multiple magical creatures before he’s finally able to find his way home. My dad kept that early effort for years.
When he returned it to me recently, I realised it contained similar themes to this tale: a shape-shifting hero, a dollop of magic and a handful of Lewis Carroll’s characters, repurposed for a new adventure. My ten-year-old self would be so proud to see my forty-three-year-old self’s short Wonderland story in print. I hope you enjoy ‘Acorns, Biscuits and Treacle’ as much as we do!
Pamela Butchart, author of 'The Queen of Hearts and the Unwritten Written Rule'
I’m a big fan of all things weird and wonderful so Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has always had a special place in my heart. My husband and I even had a Mad Hatter’s tea party at our wedding – complete with cakes, a Mad Hatter Magician and one hundred tea cups full of Prosecco!
I was delighted to be asked to be part of this wonderful collection of re-imaginings and of course chose to write about the wonderfully bad-tempered Queen of Hearts. I used to think a lot about this character as a child and found that as an adult I still had some questions about her. Does she have a softer side? Is she a necessary evil? Would she be any good at Parkour?
I had so much fun writing about what the Queen of Hearts has been up to since Alice left Wonderland and I really hope you enjoy reading it.
Maz Evans, author of 'The Sensible Hatter'
A chatty, silly show-off who likes to drink tea all day? It’s hard to say what drew me to the Hatter! Wonderland is one of my earliest memories of a story transporting me to another realm as a bookworm child, and it is an immense privilege to spend some time here as a grown-up writer. Like the Hatter, I see the world in a slightly different way sometimes and not everyone sees it the way I do. My story is a chance to explore how the Hatter might be feeling inside, the side that perhaps his friends don’t see. It’s always good to step into someone else’s shoes and try to look at the world from their point of view. If everyone did, there would be far less arguing and far more time to do very important things. Like drinking tea . . .
Swapna Haddow, author of 'The Missing Book'
I first came across Carroll’s Wonderland when I watched the Disney animation as a child. The nonsense of it all had me gripped and it wasn’t too long after that I went hunting for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in my local library. I borrowed it so many times on my sister’s library card that I’m still paying her back for the fines!
When I was approached about the Return to Wonderland anthology, I was honoured to be able to play with this timeless classic. I felt immediately drawn to the Mock Turtle. I love how self-absorbed he is. Arrogant characters are so much fun to write. His passion for learning immediately inspired a story about a library. This was my chance to write an ode to all the librarians who encouraged my love of reading and took me to wondrous worlds between the pages, including Wonderland itself.
Patrice Lawrence, author of 'Roll of Honour'
I first read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland more than forty years ago and one of the most memorable scenes is the croquet game. What must it be like pottering around a grass field waiting to be thwacked by a flamingo? So, I thought, what if you were from a family of renowned croquet balls? How do you prepare if you know you have to face a very cross Duchess, an even crosser Queen and a positively furious flamingo? Suddenly, 'Honour Roll' was born!
Chris Smith, author of 'The Tweedle Twins and the Case of the Colossal Crow'
The Tweedles have been among us a rather long time – in fact, they were already over one hundred years old before Lewis Carroll corralled them into Wonderland. They first appeared sometime in the 1700s (and I often feel the same myself on a Tuesday morning). Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee – back then – represented the bickering supporters of two rival musicians. Eighteenth-century fandoms, if you like. Fighting each other not with social media but with kitchen utensils, which strikes me as a good ideal more civilized.
Alice seemed to warm to these two hotheads immediately, and so did I. Because – let’s face it – there is a pair of Tweedles living inside each and every one of us. And dashed uncomfortable that can be too. I hope you enjoy their adventure as you go in search of your own personal crows and ride them unswervingly into the Pool of Ensmallment.
Robin Steven, author of 'Ina Out of Wonderland'
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has always been more than just a book to me. I grew up in Pembroke College, Oxford, across the road from where the real Alice and her sisters had lived more than one hundred years before. My father was the Master of Pembroke and hers was the Dean of Christ Church – so I know all about being a little girl in the very mannered, very academic adult world of Oxford University. Because I spent a lot of time in Christ Church College and on Christ Church Meadow, Wonderland has always felt like a very real place to me. I’ve seen the tree where the Cheshire Cat vanishes. I imagined the Mock Turtle dancing on the banks of the Cherwell, and the Duchess playing croquet in the Christ Church quads.
I knew I wanted to write a story that made Christ Church a part of Wonderland, and that featured the real Alice and her family. I discovered that Lewis Carroll met the eldest Liddell girl, Lorina, first, and (presumably) began to tell her stories before he knew Alice, and I began to wonder how she felt about her sister stealing the limelight in the final book. Then I saw Lewis Carroll’s photograph of the three sisters, taken around the time that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was written. In it, Alice and Edith droop sulkily on a sofa while Lorina sits between them, her back furiously straight, staring down the camera like she’s issuing a challenge. I knew that this was a girl who could not be pushed around – and I knew what story I wanted to tell.
Lauren St John, author of 'Plum Cakes at Dawn'
What I adore most about Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is the sheer exuberance of Lewis Carroll’s prose and characters and the delicious sense that absolutely anything is possible and indeed probable. As one fantastical event follows another and the Queen and various animals become increasingly hot-headed and irrational, I love it that for the most part Alice – and, in his brief appearances, the Dormouse – greets each fresh triumph or disaster with equanimity, polite curiosity and, quite often, a charming sweetness. Since the Dormouse is forever dozing, I thought that a bout of insomnia might allow him to experience some of the fun of which he’s missed out. I hope very much that you enjoy it.
Lisa Thompson, author of 'The Knave of Hearts'
When I revisited Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, it struck me that we never hear the final verdict in the trial of the Knave of Hearts. He stands accused of stealing the Queen’s jam tarts, yet we are distracted from the case by Alice growing bigger and bigger and the cascading of the pack of cards. She awakes by the bank and we forget all about the Knave and his trial. Was he found innocent or guilty of the crime? Does he still have his head? This character was a gift. With the Knave of Hearts telling his own story I could use one of my favourite writing voices – the unreliable narrator . . .
Piers Torday, author of 'How the Cheshire Cat Got His Smile'
Like millions of children before and after me, I was captivated by the surreal, hilarious and occasionally alarming madness of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland when I first encountered it, my already overactive young imagination aided by John Tenniel’s classic illustrations. But of all the many talking, singing and downright peculiar creatures to be discovered down the rabbit hole, none intrigued me more than the Cheshire Cat.
Wonderland can seem frenetic, with dashing rabbits, arguing playing cards, people changing size all the time – and this enigmatic, eerily grinning oversized cat draped over a branch perplexed me. Where had he come from? Why was he almost more smile than cat? Some say the phrase to ‘grin like a Cheshire Cat’ comes from cats delighting at the abundance of milk and cream to be found in dairy rich Cheshire, others that Carroll found inspiration in an old church carving. But I had a rather different idea . . .
Amy Wilson, author of 'The Caterpillar and the Moth Rumour'
I grew up with Alice; my grandparents gave me her adventures when I was five, and I loved them dearly, have kept them with me through all the years, and shared them with my own children. It’s a huge honour to have been asked to write this story, but, also, such a joy! The love I felt for the Caterpillar by the time we finished our own adventure together was a gift I hadn’t expected. He now sits on his mushroom in a very special place in my heart.