A Week in Books

Alice and Dorothy get smart
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The Independent Culture

How long since you last got in touch with your inner child? Not long at all, if the book trade is having its way. Adults have always re-read favourite children's literature, regardless of whether they had any smaller folk on hand. Now that furtive "crossover" experience has evolved into a lucrative new market.

How long since you last got in touch with your inner child? Not long at all, if the book trade is having its way. Adults have always re-read favourite children's literature, regardless of whether they had any smaller folk on hand. Now that furtive "crossover" experience has evolved into a lucrative new market.

Bloomsbury took care to issue the Harry Potters in discreet "adult" covers for shy grown-up fans, but that always felt like a needless precaution. Smartly suited commuters still devour the original editions without the slightest sign of bashfulness. A fake Rowling cover to slip over the latest Jeffrey Archer would make more sense. Meanwhile, Philip Pullman (see our interview) creates teenage fiction of a scope and sophistication that leaves most other writers in the shade; and Walter Moers's German "kidult" sensation (see our review) turns up in Secker's general list.

For some sad cases, only the lofty trappings of pure scholarship will excuse a browse in some much-loved classic of their childhood. For three decades, such guilty fusspots have consumed The Annotated Alice, the US science writer Martin Gardner's brilliant explication of the logic, mathematics, politics and parody stitched by Lewis Carroll into the fabric of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Now, Allen Lane has issued a "definitive edition" (£20), with new material as well as all the old favourites (such as "Jabberwocky" in French and German).

Inspired by The Annotated Alice, Michael Patrick Hearn has been labouring mightily on The Annotated Wizard of Oz (W W Norton, £25). His fine "Centennial Edition" more than justifies the toil: a handsome colour facsimile of the first edition (August 1900) comes with a 100-page essay on the origins of Oz and its shift to stage and screen, and exhaustive notes glossing Oz myth and philosophy. The major contrast is that Hearn searches far and wide for literary or folkloric echoes of L Frank Baum's parable, whereas Gardner merely had to unearth all the clues planted by the polymathic fellow of Christ Church.

As a proud American Progressive, Baum might even have resented being saddled with the baggage of arty European allusion that Carroll so gleefully bears. That faint paradox aside, both of these editions will gladden the heart of any pedantic kidult near you (or in you). They are warmly recommended to all chums of Alice and, of course, to every friend of Dorothy.

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