Alice In Wonderland and the Twins

Read till you come to the end: then stop

Has your highschooler read Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass? Not Walt Disney’s or other abridged versions, but the original Lewis Carroll, illustrated with the fantastical drawings of John Tenniel. The original Through the Looking Glass delights with the quirky poem Jabberwocky. Here is a sample,

Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!

… and the equally zany The Walrus and the Carpenter — one of the best verses for sample,

The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright —
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

Cautionary tales

Good heavens, you might say, read such nonsense when there is so much strife and challenges in the world?

Well, yes. If your kid can read Through the Looking Glass cover to cover at his own pace and find it fascinating, then he is playing chess while others are playing checkers.

Also, if the reader uses her imagination to turn the “nonsense” into cautionary tales, then she is ready for life’s challenges! Let’s consider tricky folks one of life’s difficulties – like Mr. Walrus and Mr. Carpenter. These snippets from the poem summarize the situation well,

O Oysters, come and walk with us!’
The Walrus did beseech.
A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.’

The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head —
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.

But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat —
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn’t any feet.

Guess what happened to the gullible little oysters.

O Oysters,’ said the Carpenter,
You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none —
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.”

Alas, innocents that believe in wondrous promises from the powerful.

The mathematician who wrote children’s books

Lewis Carroll was the pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, born in Daresbury, Cheshire, England, in 1832. He died in 1898. He is known for Alice in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking Glass (1871), although he wrote other books, short stories, and poems. His other most-often mentioned works are Bruno’s Revenge (1867), The Hunting of the Snark (1876), and A Tangled Tale (1885).

Carroll was not only a prolific writer, but also a mathematician, logician, photographer, and Anglican deacon. He taught mathematics and logic at Christ Church, Oxford, and wrote several mathematical books under his birth name. His mathematical puzzles are sometimes included in puzzle books. His most-often mentioned mathematical book is An Elementary Treatise on Determinants with their Application to Simultaneous Linear Equations and Algebraic Geometry (1867).

A whole lot of Carroll’s writings and puzzles were intended to teach children math and logic. His work can still do so today. The popular website Teachers Pay Teachers is just one of the several that have materials related to Lewis Carroll’s works for younger children as well as for highschoolers. Lesson Planet has good material on Lewis Carroll as well.

Gee, this book is long!

The last chapter of Alice in Wonderland has useful advice for readers of long books,

“There’s more evidence to come yet, please your Majesty,” said the White Rabbit, jumping up in a great hurry: “this paper has just been picked up …” “it’s a set of verses …” “Read them,” said the King. The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. “Where shall I begin, please your Majesty,” he asked.

Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.

Alice at the Trial