Cover Wars: Alice in Wonderland


Join us in judging books by their covers! This week’s cover wars will follow the same format as last week’s: instead of many books, we’ll look at many covers of the same books and assess them based on how well or poorly they represent the story, and which aspect of the characters or plot are emphasized. Happy reading!

Alice 1

Steph: I kinda like it. I’m not sure about all the blank space, I mean, it’s a very plain cover for such a riotous book full of action and colour and mischief. I like the illustration of the rabbit, and I suppose the “white rabbit” could account for the blankness of the cover… and now I’m think Tabula Rasa and wondering if there is a connection to the White Rabbit there, but I think that’s for an essay and not for a cover judgement. I kind of wish that Wonderland were highlighted in some way. Alice is certainly important… but so is wonderland.

Nafiza: Hmm, I’m with Steph. I adore the illustrations but the white space is rather jarring. I feel like if the background wasn’t so glaringly empty, it would have more of an effect.

Janet: That rabbit tottering on the edge of who-knows-what makes the cover for me. It is such an absurd rabbit. I kind of like the white, almost for the reasons Steph and Nafiza don’t. I like that this cover doesn’t tell me what Alice looks like, or what Wonderland looks like. The one figure we do see gives a sense of the ridiculous characters in the story without dictating to my imagination. That said I don’t like the shade of red – but I’m picky.

Alice 2

Steph: Whoah, this is a dated cover. It’s just so… well, it’s kinda boring? Also Alice is wearing very non-iconic Alice clothing and looks rather tame as opposed to the troublesome tousled blond we get on other covers like the Tenniel pieces. I’m not a fan of the muted purple, the font is alright, but nothing particularly stands out on this cover… at all.

Nafiza: I’m not a fan of the gray margins at all. I know it is to provide a juxtaposition and contrast to the picture inside the frame but it doesn’t work for me. The illustrations are dated and not something that engages me.

Janet: Alice looks unexpectedly docile, which is not something I associate with her. The brown hair is a nice touch; is Alice’s hair colour stated in the text? I’m with Nafiza on the grey margins, but I like the topiary in the background and I’d pause over this cover long enough take a good look at the queen. Not my favourite, but better than the movie covers, right?

Alice 3

Steph: This, for me, is the classic cover that I had as a kid (but who’s to say what’s classic, haha, I’m betting everyone has a different childhood favourite). I like it. I think that it is perhaps just a little too…. normal, and a little boring – but I just love the classic feel of it. Also the Cheshire cat gives us that uncanny feel to the book. The title seems to intrude on the artwork, and I’m not sure the border is necessary. It’s an old cover, but a favourite of mine (and I think I have it here somewhere).

Nafiza: I’m with Stephie once again. The cover is boring. This is Alice in Wonderland!!! Surely there are more fantastic ways to express the craziness and wonder of wonderland than this cover?

Janet: I think it is the muted colours that make this cover seem old-fashioned (and I’m pretty sure that this cover is old). I like this one anyway for the placement of the title, that lovely (old) illustrative style, the shading of the tree and other figures, and for that nearly-as-large-as-Alice cat.

 Alice 5

Steph: Well, perhaps this one is even older than my own favourite. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cover that features the Mad Hatter and the March Hare. It’s a very iconic moment in the story and it makes sense that it would make the cover, so I like the general idea. Alice herself looks a little too docile and plain still, but I like the way that the March Hare is staring straight out at the reader. This is kind of fun!

Nafiza: Hmmm…..nope. Though to be completely honest, I’d probably like this better if the colours were glossier and the illustrations had a bit more impact.

Janet: I would not want to be at a tea party with that Hatter. Alice looks a little to meek and sweet for my taste, but I do like that she isn’t blonde. This cover is kind of refreshing, but it doesn’t make me leap for joy.

Alice 6

Steph: This cover looks like it is a framed classic – which I guess it is meant to be. It’s… alright. I mean, it’s meant to market the “classic” that it is and probably it would go with a collection of other Washington Square Classics. Alice looks a little more feisty and she’s in her iconic clothes, I like the white rabbit – he looks odd and sort of lost, which is perfect. I kind of wonder where they are though… I don’t remember a scene like this in the book (do you fellow book warriors?). There are many a great scene to choose from so it would make sense to take from the actual story.

Nafiza: This is much too boring and again with the framing. It’s interesting how the cover positions the reader as on the outside looking in. I don’t understand why this scene is always the more popular one where covers are concerned. Show me the crazy queens, the talking flowers!

Janet: Steph, I think this is the scene where Alice first sees the rabbit, and he keeps muttering that he’s going to be late for a very important date. Or something like that. (Time to reread, methinks.) That rabbit looks very British, almost military in his forward-leaning march and attire. I like that Alice appears right on the edge of action; I’m convinced that she is about to lean her weight further forward onto her arms and stand up to follow that rabbit. Definitely aiming for that “classic” look – but i like this one.

   Alice 9

Steph: Another serial cover. I like this one, I like it’s creepiness. I’m not sure why there are all the wavy lines… maybe because the book is wonky? Or it’s meant to symbolize the forest or something? I just really like the Cheshire Cat and I like it when he’s featured, haha, so I’m biased. I like the creepy smile, and the suit symbols are a  nice touch in the background. Again I have to question the use of purple… is the Cheshire cat purple? In the Disney version he is, I guess, so maybe that’s where they’re getting it from.

Nafiza: This cover made me grin like a loon. I like how bold it is and how sharp the teeth are. Also the purple though I don’t understand the wavy lines–seems like a strange choice for the Cheshire Cat but I can live with it.

Janet: Um. I would not pick this up. Only if Yash handed it to me. Although staring at it now, I’m almost getting used to the creepy effect and those teeth. What a grin!

Alice 10

Steph: Janet! You are always keeping the best for last! This cover is so creative and fun! I love that she kind of looks like a paper doll, and that she’s upside down – since so much of the book feels upside down (or inside wrong, or outside up – you get the jist). I enjoy the consistency of the whimsical (but legible) font and the blue tones. Very nice. I want to own this cover.

Nafiza: I LOVE this! So many times, the covers position Alice as the sane observer in a world of mad crazy things and people, discounting the fact that since all the events sprout from Alice’s imagination, she’s the craziest one of them all. This cover neatly weds the crazy circumstances and the mischievous whimsy that is so characteristic of Alice. I really like this.

Janet: Creative, isn’t it? This cover is cleverly done. I’m not comfortable with how helpless Alice is in this one, though.

82 responses to “Cover Wars: Alice in Wonderland

  1. Alice is one of those books that’s received a HUGE number of treatments over the years, in terms of covers, inside illustrations, abridgements, etc. You guys covered a good range, and I hadn’t seen a few of them. I like the purple cheshire cat for the simple reason that the wavy lines make me feel trapped in a forest of vines. It’s claustrophobic and the huge smile slices through that, but leaves me unsettled as to whether or not it’s the smile of a saviour or foe.

    Also, I like this cover, personally:

  2. OOh! Anna I like that one too! Rob, yours is very stylized and interesting – I wonder at this fascination with the Hatter, he’s not in the actual book for very long (and I haven’t read it in a while) but it strikes me as odd that he’s the figure that contemporary audiences latch on to. The original hipster perhaps?

    Also – for the cover that’s boring in our mix, how interesting Janet, that you point out this cover is actually set outside of Wonderland in the meadow when Alice first sees the White Rabbit!

  3. The last one is most defiantly my favorite, too! I like how she transforms I to the teacup.

    I also like some of the classic ones, especially the Mad Hatter one, as I like the style of the art, even if Alice is too meek. The purple Cheshire Cat is fun, too, very ’70s.

  4. I’m a really big fan of the first one, but I love the style of old covers. That cover almost seems to introduce you to wonderland in the same way Alice was introduced, by following an odd rabbit.

    Granted, the last one showcased it great in that it has the whole tea cup thing going on, but I sometimes fear the Mad Hatter overwhelms the rabbit in sense of importance in the whole story. I mean…sure, the Hatter’s a ton of fun, so is the Cat, but isn’t the story really about Alice trying to catch up with that rabbit? And seeing as these stories were created with Alice supposed to be an avatar for the person reading(hearing) the story, it seems that having Alice on the cover does the story a mild disservice….but I’m just goofy like that, I suppose.

  5. The most wonderful thing about cover art, for me, is that it inevitably infects my kind and frames the world I create for the story to take place in. I have two copies of 20,000 leagues under the Sea, and i almost always grav the elder copy as its imagery was not conceived in the lens of a post world War earth. I feel as though the digital evolution of literature will always lack the sincere artwork of a well intentioned cover. I do love much of the digital cover work, but it feels safe to me.

  6. I have a soft spot for no. 4 — the retro/vintage look, and the Mad Hatter hinting at the craziness in the story. The last would definitely make me look again to make sure I was seeing correctly lol

  7. As a student in two graduate programs (Library Science and English Literature) I am almost afraid to admit that I have a strange habit in bookstores. I set a limit, say…5 new books, before I go in to the store. The first four books I usually purchase because they have been on my wish list, or are new arrivals by a favorite author. The last book is purchased solely based on its cover and title. I’ve done this for years and it has led to some terrible purchases, “The Music of the Spheres,” and some wonderful finds, “Her Fearful Symmetry.” Although, I did not purchase the second book in its traditional, first edition cover. Anyway, my point is that I LOVE these cover wars! If I had never read “Alice in Wonderland,” and never heard of the book, some of these would make it as my last purchase, while others fall far, far short.

    • Well planned! It’s so easy to leave book stores with full arms and an empty wallet otherwise. I’m glad you like the cover wars!

  8. I like the first one. The white space doesn’t bother me, it is appropriate I think. Love the rabbit perching on the edge, ready to fall….Yep, it works. The worst one for me is the second one. Yes it is dated, and it doesn’t make me want to pick up the book and read it. The queen is a little freaky looking, which fits, but it doesn’t seem to even hint at all the wonder within the cover….The point of the cover is to entice. The first one does, the second is the worst at it..

    • We’d have a dull world (and no book industry) if everyone’s taste was the same. That third cover is one of my two favourites of the ones above – glad you like the discussions!

  9. I love the last one in particular myself. Not only for the reasons mentioned in the blog, but because I feel it truly encapsulates the whole “Wonderland is more than it seems” feel of the entire story. At first glance, you see either a tea cup or a little girl, but on second glance, you see that they are one and the same. Truly fitting for such a bizarre story which questions the very nature of perception.

  10. So interesting! My copy from around 1901 has a different cover then any of these, but just a simple red background with some vines, nit much indication of the magic within it.

  11. My favorite was the last one and it is true the first thing I judge a book by is the cover no matter how the saying goes that last cover really gave the jist loved it thanks for sharing

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  13. I just wanted to reply to what Janet said about the last cover about how Alice seems a little too helpless. I think that may have been the intent of the illustrator, because in the beginning her whole world is upside down and she is helpless but as time goes on she learns to be the independent Alice we know. She learns to trust and be herself and that transition is perhaps part of the lesson the tale is meant to teach.

  14. I too really liked the last one. What a wonderful idea for a discussion. I have picked up so many books in the past based solely on my reaction to the cover.

  15. Huh, it is interesting how each cover gives a different idea of what’s inside the book – and how many don’t really seem to address the whimsy of Wonderland.
    I personally like the first cover all the same, regardless of the blank space. And of course I adore that last cover, I think it best illustrates what to expect in the book.

  16. I loved the unexpectedness and creativity of the last one — but seeing these made me realize what a traditionalist I am. I really like the more classic ones. I think my favorite among this collection is the third-to-last, with Alice sitting on the grass. She looks just like a little girl who’s been running around and is a bit out of breath — not prim at all. This is the one I have: I love the rich red cover with the detailed decorations and the small, understated illustration in the center — though I’d like it better if it were Alice in the center illustration.

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