Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Born: January 27, 1832
Died: January 14, 1898
Lewis Carroll was the pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Dodgson invented his pen name by translating his first two names into the Latin "Carolus Lodovicus" and then anglicizing it into "Lewis Carroll")  Besides being the author of the "Alice" books, he was a Victorian-era logician and mathematics tutor at Christ Church, Oxford (you'll see how that comes into play in a minute).
Disney's Alice
Because of the popularity of the Disney movie, many people don't realize there are two Alice books and that neither of them is titled "Alice in Wonderland". The first book (published in 1865) was Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and has an undeniable card deck theme - with "The Queen of Hearts" being a dominant character. The second book, titled Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, (published in 1872), switched to a chess theme - where two Queens, Red and White, appear.

Anyway, back to the math:  I recently came across a fascinating article written by Melanie Bayley for New Scientist about the curious mathematical aspects of the Alice books.  She says that what many have assumed to merely be fantastic imaginary tales for children, were actually Dodgson's (Carroll's) attempts to parody the absurdities of mid-19th century's new abstract mathematics - "Wonderland's madness reflects Carroll's views on the dangers of the new symbolic algebra".

And in this nonsensical world, Carroll seems to make the Cheshire Cat the logical voice of traditional geometry:
"'Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?'
'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat.
'I don't much care where--' said Alice.
'Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat.
'--so long as I get SOMEWHERE,' Alice added as an explanation.
'Oh, you're sure to do that,' said the Cat, 'if you only walk long enough.'"

Speaking of nonsense, I can't even begin to understand ykcowrebbaJ!!!!!

Illustrations by John Tenniel (1820-1914/English)
Click here for some fun ideas in case you want to throw a MAD HATTER TEA PARTY to celebrate Lewis Carroll's birthday tomorrow!
(By the way, I just realized in re-reading Carroll's texts: that whole "un-birthday" thing doesn't take place at the famous Tea Party, but is rather a conversation that takes place between Alice and Humpty-Dumpty in the second book!  I guess I watched the Disney version too many times!  What misconceptions have you had?)


  1. Those illustrations are charming. I would love to throw or go to a tea party like that...and play croquet in the yard!

  2. Sounds lovely - if I lived close to you, I'd come! :)