REVIEW: “Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser,” and “The Art of Romona Quimby”

“Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser,” edited by Kate Bailey and Simon Slade, with contributions from Annemarie Bilclough and Harriet Reed, illustrations by Kristjana S. Williams

c.2020, V&A Publishing, distributed by Abrams $50 / higher in Canada 224 pages

“The Art of Ramona Quimby” by Anna Katz, essays by Annie Barrows & Jacqueline Rogers

c.2020, Chronicle Books $40.00 / higher in Canada 256 pages

You’ve never had problems finding trouble.

You were once pretty good at attracting it, whether it was meeting up with late-running rabbits or skinny dogs, flimsy card soldiers, or paper boys on bicycles. No, you’ve never had trouble finding problems, whether for real or in pages with your best story-friends. So now’s the time to revisit two of your favorites, all grown up.

The words “down the rabbit hole” are almost synonymous these days with All Things Internet, but for lovers of the original and most famous rabbit hole, “Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser,” is a book that any fan will treasure.

Much more than a mere storybook, this gorgeous volume presents snippets of “Through the Looking Glass,” the tale that became Alice in Wonderland, woven between original art from Kristjana S. Williams, old-time photographs, reproductions of playbills and movie posters, illustrations from the engravers who furnished art for a volume released in the mid-1860s, and more Everything Alice.

The original artwork is beautiful, colorful, and you’ll be tempted to pull pages for framing (but don’t!). The playbills and posters are wonderful signs of the times. And if you were scared to bits as a child by the hundred-plus-year-old illustrations (or you want to share them with your own kids), be warned: they’re just as terrifying today as they were when you were small. Still, this gorgeous, heavy, large-size book is great for Alice fans especially, but also for anyone who appreciates good art.

For every kid who spent wonderful rainy days or after-school with Ramona the Pest, there’s “The Art of Ramona Quimby” by Anna Katz, featuring essays by Annie Barrows and Jacqueline Rogers.

Remember hanging out on Klickitat Street with Henry Huggins, Ribsy, and their neighbors, Beezus and Ramona? Yep, this book celebrates your enjoyment of those kids, as Katz looks at seventy-five years of book covers, showing how Ramona and her cohorts have changed through the generations and according to the times.

Former kids who loved these books are in for a nostalgia-loaded evening or three. Not only will you be charmed all over again by a little sister that may’ve been just like yours, but you’ll see a progression of clothing, character features and possessions, and styles of drawings from five artists who illustrated author Beverly Cleary’s books through the decades. You may even remember being particularly keen on one or two of the drawings.

Just so you know, readers won’t be disappointed here: you’ll find huge and varied excerpts from the Ramona-based Cleary books, most with two or more illustrations to illuminate the differences in artwork. It’s a fascinating evolution.

This is a book to share with a kid who needs a new heroine to spent afternoons with. And, if you’re feeling particularly sentimental, it’s a great trip down Memory Lane.

As a gift for a friend, fellow reader, or for yourself, either of these books are perfect. Get them, enjoy them, you’ll have no trouble.