On a Mad Tea Party

I stayed up later than I should have last night to finish ‘The View from Saturday’ by E. L. Konigsburg. I really, really liked it, but I don’t have time before I go to work to tell you all the things I liked about it, so I’m just going to share one small detail. The book is about four children whose lives intertwine, and each chapter is told from a different person’s point of view (not the detail I want to share, just a bit of background for you). One of the characters, Julian, brings the four children together by inviting the other three to a tea party. But he does it secretly, so no one else at school knows. How does he do this? He sticks a post-it note subtly to their books, their backpacks, and so on, and the post-it note says:

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland 

Chapter VII Title

The title, in case you hadn’t guessed, of Chapter VII of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is ‘A Mad Tea Party’. Other clues about the time and place are sprinkled through other books.

Isn’t that a wonderful way to invite someone over for tea? I immediately became determined to make an invitation stating the exact same thing.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland becomes relevant again towards the end of the book, when the four children are part of an academic team, and their final question to win the championship is regarding Humpty Dumpty. When and where was Humpty Dumpty’s first appearance? The other team says Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The answer, however, is incorrect. Our team knows the answer – it is in fact Through the Looking Glass.

I find it really interesting that certain books, like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, get references and alluded to in so many other books. I myself have alluded to Alice and the Cheshire Cat in my own writing. Something about them captures our imagination, and speaks to writers. They want to include a slither of the magic of those books in their own, maybe?

What stories or character have you noticed appearing in other books? Which stories and characters have you noticed seem to fascinate authors in a way that they want to reinterpret or pay homage to these stories and characters in their own work? And, most importantly, why?

the view from saturday

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9 comments

  1. I love View from Saturday! I love how the characters strengths and weaknesses fit so well together. Lately, I have noticed many references or recycling of classic books. Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Auxier definitely has a reference to Phantom Tollbooth (word play especially). A book called Floors by Carmen has a duck thing that is similar to Catcher in the Rye (calm on the exterior, frantic on the interior). Maze Runner by Dashner reminds me so much of Lord of the Flies. I feel like there are a handful of really good archetypes that create such good story lines, authors just use them over and over.

  2. alittleinkblog

    Alice In Wonderland inspiration is everywhere in books! I’ve just read A G Howard’s book ‘Splintered’ (a dark, teenage interpretation of Alice’s plight) and I always enjoy reading Frank Beddor’s the ‘Looking Glass Wars’. I adore books that reference other books. Not really sure why but I get such a thrill when I recognise it. It’s almost like writers tip their hat to all readers and acknowledge the time you spend reading. It’s one reason I love Lemony Snicket – you can spend ages trying to guess all the literary allusions.

    • What a coincidence – I’ve just started reading a Lemony Snicket book. I love how he doesn’t assume that kids are too young to get literary references and puts a whole lot in. I’m at Prufrock Prepatory School at the moment, and remembering the class I had at uni about the poem. I love the thought that in a few years time, a kid who was 10 when they read the book but is now at university studies the poem and goes ‘Oh! That’s why Lemony Snicket called the school Prufrock!’

  3. Alice in Wonderland is the third (I believe I read somewhere recently) most quoted book in English speaking world. Bible is first and can’t remeber the second. There are so many great lines!

    • I would believe that about Alice in Wonderland! It pops up everywhere! There are so many great lines, great characters, great images, poems and songs… I imagine that almost every children’s fantasy book borrows something from it.

  4. Maria Sbizzirri

    Shakespeare would have to be second??

    • I didn’t think of Shakespeare, but you are probably right! I was thinking Greek Mythology, or particularly Homer, but Shakespeare is probably sprinkled in more texts – seeing as Shakespeare invented so many words that we use today, we probably reference him all the time without knowing!

  5. Pingback: On coming full circle | 1001 Children's Books

  6. Pingback: On where the list of 1001 Children’s Books I Must Read Before I Grow Up (Too Much) comes from | 1001 Children's Books

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