Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (Illustrated Junior Library) - Lewis Carroll, John Tenniel When I started to read this book, I was reading it like an adult.

That was my first mistake.

I had heard the story before and had even performed, in melodramatic fashion, as a card soldier in an 8th grade school play, but I had never actually read the book. Nor do I recall it ever being read to me. The imagery was vivid in my mind but not how it was all put together. Thus, over the course of my 30 some years, I’ve associated many of the images (falling through the rabbit hall, the Mad Hatter and March Hare and the Cheshire cat to name few) with various symbolic meanings. So I started to read Alice in Wonderland on two levels. The children’s story and the subtle, undercurrent, symbolic adult story.

The only problem is… there is no subtle, symbolic adult story.

At first, I was annoyed. I thought I was just really dense and missed something. Then, like all adults in the 21st century that don’t understand something, I Wikipedia-ed it. Then I learned that Alice in Wonderland is “considered to be one of the most characteristic examples of the genre of ‘literary nonsense.” It’s not supposed to make sense. It’s not supposed to be symbolic.

So, then I tried to read it like a kid.

That was my second mistake,

As much as I would like to recapture childhood whimsy, some things are just lost to time. I can appreciate Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, but I honestly can’t enjoy them as a child could. I suppose that’s a testament to the ability of Charles Dodgeson (AKA Lewis Carroll) to recreate a story that appeals to a child’s imagination without being a child. I’m still at a loss to explain how this story has become so ingrained into our collective childhood consciousness when there is nothing in it that would traditionally appeal to adults. No moral. No double entendres. No story arc.

It’s just a whimsical story.

And as much as I realize I’ve lost some of that whimsy, I’m glad others can still capture it.