If you loved: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

1024 683 Writer and the Wolf Editorial

If you’ve ever worked with me or read a few posts on this blog, you’ll know I like to harp on about the importance of reading recently published books in order to understand the current kidlit market. If you hope to be successful as a middle grade or YA author, it’s crucial that you immerse yourself in novels that are being published and read today so that you get a feel for what children and teenagers actually want now, rather than a decade ago.

When I ask new clients what books they’ve read recently in their market and where they imagine their own manuscript sitting on shelves in bookshops, the vast majority list the childhood classics they grew up with: The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, Peter Pan, Wind in the Willows, The Secret Garden, Charlotte’s Web. It’s wonderful to be inspired by the books we loved as children – after all, those are the stories that made us love language and literature in the first place. But most of those books were published far too long ago to be reflective of the current marketplace – some more than one hundred years ago.

Children’s literature has changed drastically since these stories were first sold and, for various reasons, most of them wouldn’t be published today. For a start, some of these books contain problematic language and ideas like racism and ableism which, thankfully, aren’t tolerated today. There has also been a huge shift in how we talk to and treat children since the 19th and early 20th centuries; Victorian literature was often very didactic and moralistic, preaching to young readers about the importance of religion and virtue and scaring them with stories of ‘naughty’ children being injured or even killed.

Writing styles have changed, too. Omniscient POV and authorial intrusion were common in children’s books for a long time but today middle grade and YA novels tend to employ a more intimate, close perspective with a strong child/teen voice.

As a children’s author, the number one thing you can do for your writing and for your chances of publishing success is read lots of recently published middle grade or YA books and build a strong picture of the current market.

But where do you start?

I’ve talked a lot on the blog about how to find great, modern titles in bookshops, in libraries and online, but I really wanted to address that handful of children’s classics that keep cropping up in my client questionnaires. If you haven’t read or enjoyed a middle grade or YA book since your own childhood, it can be hard to know where to start, so let’s begin with the stories that first inspired you. In this post, I’m going to kick off with a title that pops up a lot when I ask about favourite children’s books: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Title: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Author: Lewis Carroll

Published: 1865

Genre: Fantasy / nonsense

If you love the tale of seven-year-old Alice falling down a rabbit hole into an unfamiliar fantasy world and haven’t explored the current children’s book market yet, a great place to start is with retellings. Middle grade and YA are packed full of fantastic twists on classic tales, bringing the original stories into the 21st century and reflecting the experiences, interests and anxieties of today’s children and teenagers. Here are some middle grade and YA reimaginings of Alice to kick you off.

If you loved: Alice’s Adventures in WonderlandUnbirthday-A Twisted Tale by Liz Braswell
Published by Disney Hyperion on 20/05/2024
Genres: Young Adult Fiction / Fairy Tales & Folklore / Adaptations
Pages: 512
Goodreads

The 10th installment in the New York Times best-selling A TWISTED TALE series asks: What if Wonderland was in peril and Alice was very, very late?

Alice is different than other eighteen-year-old ladies in Kexford, which is perfectly fine with her. She'd rather spend golden afternoons with her trusty camera or in her aunt Vivian's lively salon, ignoring her sister's wishes that she stop all that "nonsense" and become a "respectable" member of society. Alice is happy to meander to Miss Yao's teashop or to visit the children playing in the Square. She's also interested in learning more about the young lawyer she met there, but just because she's curious, of course, not because he was sweet and charming.
But when Alice develops photographs she has recently taken about town, familiar faces of old suddenly appear in the place of her actual subjects--the Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter, the Caterpillar. There's something eerily off about them, even for Wonderland creatures. And as Alice develops a self-portrait, she finds the most disturbing image of all--a badly-injured dark-haired girl asking for Alice's help. Mary Ann.

Returning to the place of nonsense from her childhood, Alice finds herself on a mission to stop the Queen of Hearts' tyrannical rule and to find her place in both worlds. But will she able to do so . . . before the End of Time?


For more twisted adventures, try the other books in the A TWISTED TALE series:

  • A Whole New World by Liz Braswell
  • Once Upon a Dream by Liz Braswell
  • As Old as Time by Liz Braswell
  • Reflection by Elizabeth Lim
  • Part of Your World by Liz Braswell
  • Mirror, Mirror by Jen Calonita
  • Concel, Don't Feel by Jen Calonita
  • Straight On Till Morning by Liz Braswell
  • So This is Love by Elizabeth Lim
  • Go the Distance by Jen Calonita
  • What Once Was Mine by Liz Braswell

If you loved: Alice’s Adventures in WonderlandReturn to Wonderland by Various
Published by Pan Macmillan on 27/06/2019
Genres: Juvenile Fiction / Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 256
Goodreads

Return to Lewis Carroll's Wonderland with this stunning collection of original stories from today's biggest children's authors – Peter Bunzl, Pamela Butchart, Maz Evans, Swapna Haddow, Patrice Lawrence, Chris Smith, Robin Stevens, Lauren St John, Lisa Thompson, Piers Torday and Amy Wilson.

Tumble down the rabbit hole again to find out what happens in Wonderland without Alice there. Is the Queen of Hearts still ruling with an iron fist? Does the Mad Hatter still have to go to tea? And will Tweedledum and Tweedledee ever resolve their argument?

More than 150 years since Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was first published by Macmillan, revisit Carroll's amazing cast of characters – including the Queen of Hearts, the Mock Turtle, the Dormouse, the Cheshire Cat and Alice's Sister in these brand-new stories, that will bring a new generation of readers to Wonderland.

'A feast of invention and fine writing' Telegraph Book of the Week

'It's hard not to lap up this collection of short stories by some of our greatest contemporary children's authors' The Times

If you loved: Alice’s Adventures in WonderlandWonderland by Juno Dawson
Published by Hachette UK on 28/05/2020
Genres: Young Adult Fiction / LGBTQ
Pages: 400
Goodreads

Fall into the lives of the city's filthy rich with Juno Dawson's deliciously dark and intoxicating London Collection.

FROM THE WINNER OF THE YA BOOK PRIZE 2020

A vicious, dark delight' - heat magazine

What happens when you fall down the rabbit hole? The compulsive must-have follow-up to CLEAN and MEAT MARKET from bestselling, award-winning author Juno Dawson

Alice lives in a world of stifling privilege and luxury - but none of it means anything when your own head plays tricks on your reality. When her troubled friend Bunny goes missing, Alice becomes obsessed with finding her. On the trail of her last movements, Alice discovers a mysterious invitation to 'Wonderland': the party to end all parties - three days of hedonistic excess to which only the elite are welcome.

Will she find Bunny there? Or is this really a case of finding herself? Because Alice has secrets of her own, and ruthless socialite queen Paisley Hart is determined to uncover them, whatever it takes.

Alice is all alone, miles from home, and now she has a new enemy who wants her head...

A searing exploration of mental health, gender and privilege, from the most addictive YA novelist in the UK today.

Also in the London Collection: Clean, Meat Market

NOT SUITABLE FOR YOUNGER READERS

If you loved: Alice’s Adventures in WonderlandA Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney
Published by Imprint on 25/09/2018
Genres: Young Adult Fiction / Fairy Tales & Folklore / Adaptations
Pages: 352
Goodreads

"A Blade So Black is the fantasy book I've been waiting for my whole life."
—Angie Thomas, #1 New York Times-bestselling author of The Hate U Give

For fans of Marissa Meyer, L.L. McKinney's A Blade So Black delivers an irresistible urban fantasy retelling of Alice in Wonderland... but it's not the Wonderland you remember.

The first time the Nightmares came, it nearly cost Alice her life. Now she's trained to battle monstrous creatures in the dark dream realm known as Wonderland with magic weapons and hardcore fighting skills. Yet even warriors have a curfew.

Life in real-world Atlanta isn't always so simple, as Alice juggles an overprotective mom, a high-maintenance best friend, and a slipping GPA. Keeping the Nightmares at bay is turning into a full-time job. But when Alice's handsome and mysterious mentor is poisoned, she has to find the antidote by venturing deeper into Wonderland than she’s ever gone before. And she'll need to use everything she's learned in both worlds to keep from losing her head... literally.

Debut author L.L. McKinney delivers an action-packed twist on an old classic, full of romance and otherworldly intrigue.

And don't miss the thrilling sequel, A Dream So Dark!

An Imprint Book

"Mixing elements of Alice in Wonderland and Buffy the Vampire Slayer... Delectable." —Entertainment Weekly

If you loved: Alice’s Adventures in WonderlandEver Alice by H. J. Ramsay
Published by Gold Man Review on 01/08/2019
Genres: Young Adult Fiction / Fairy Tales & Folklore / Adaptations
Pages: 356
Goodreads

Alice's stories of Wonderland did more than raise a few eyebrows-it landed her in an asylum. Now at 15 years of age, she's willing to do anything to leave, which includes agreeing to an experimental procedure. When Alice decides at the last minute not to go through with it, she escapes with the White Rabbit to Wonderland and trades one mad house for another: the court of the Queen of Hearts. Only this time, she is under orders to take out the Queen. When love, scandal, and intrigue begin to muddle her mission, Alice finds herself on the wrong side of the chopping block.

If you loved: Alice’s Adventures in WonderlandOff with Their Heads by Zoe Hana Mikuta
Published by Disney Publishing Worldwide on 20/05/2024
Genres: Young Adult Fiction / Fairy Tales & Folklore / General
Pages: 416
Goodreads

Fans of Chloe Gong and Judy I. Lin will devour this Korean-inspired Alice in Wonderland retelling about two very wicked girls, forever bonded by blood and betrayal . . .

In a world where Saints are monsters and Wonderland is the dark forest where they lurk, it's been five years since young witches and lovers Caro Rabbit and Iccadora Alice Sickle were both sentenced to that forest for a crime they didn't commit--and four years since they shattered one another's hearts, each willing to sacrifice the other for a chance at freedom.

Now, Caro is a successful royal Saint-harvester, living the high life in the glittering capital and pretending not to know of the twisted monster experiments that her beloved Red Queen hides deep in the bowels of the palace. But for Icca, the memory of Caro's betrayal has hardened her from timid girl to ruthless hunter. A hunter who will stop at nothing to exact her vengeance: On Caro. On the queen. On the throne itself.

But there's a secret about the Saints the Queen's been guarding, and a volatile magic at play even more dangerous to Icca and Caro than they are to each other...

Lush, terrifying, and uncanny, Zoe Hana Mikuta--author of Gearbreakers and Godslayers--takes a delicate knife straight through the heart of this beloved surrealist fairytale.

If you loved: Alice’s Adventures in WonderlandAlice the Dagger by Ashley McLeo
Published by Meraki Press on 23/09/2020
Genres: Young Adult Fiction / Fairy Tales & Folklore / General
Pages: 418
Goodreads

They call me the dagger.

I'm a famed assassin. It's all I've ever known. All that I can remember. So when a white rabbit tells me that loved ones are waiting for me in the Wonderland Court of Faerie, it's surprising. And then, I learn something even more shocking.

The Red Queen stole the crown from my mother-who she murdered. The queen singlehandedly created my reality of death and blood and murder.

While that's devastating, I can handle it. As long as I get revenge. What I don't know how to handle is Henri Hatter. He's a rebel leader loved by everyone. A man who sings in the streets because people ask for aether's sake. A faerie who knows more about my past than anyone-including me. A good man who could crush my heart if I let him in. Which I can't do Not if I want vengeance against the Queen who ruined my life. Despite my claims that I work alone, Hatter and two nosey little pixies insist on sticking with me.

Only one thing is for sure, with them by my side assassinating the Red Queen will be unlike any other job I've ever tackled.

If you loved: Alice’s Adventures in WonderlandThe Lost Wonderland Diaries by Jeffrey Scott Savage
Published by Shadow Mountain on 20/05/2024
Genres: Juvenile Fiction / Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 336
Goodreads

Something monstrous has been found in the magic world of Wonderland and it wants to get out.

Lewis Carroll created a curious and fantastical world in his classic book Alice in Wonderland, but he secretly recorded the true story of his actual travels to Wonderland in four journals which have been lost to the world...until now.

Celia and Tyrus discover the legendary Lost Diaries of Wonderland and fall into a portal that pulls them into the same fantasy world as the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter. However, Wonderland has vastly changed. A darkness has settled over the land, and some creatures and characters that Tyrus remembers from the book have been transformed into angry monsters.

Celia and Tyrus make their way through this unpredictable and dangerous land, helped by familiar friends including the Cheshire Cat and a new character, Sylvan, a young rabbit. Together, they desperately work to solve puzzles and riddles, looking for a way out of Wonderland. But the danger increases when the Queen of Hearts begins hunting them. Believing the two young visitors hold the key to opening multiple portals to multiple worlds, she will stop at nothing to capture them.

It's up to Celia and Tyrus to save Wonderland and the real world. It's a race against time before they are trapped in Wonderland forever.

Once you’ve had your fill of retellings, you can broaden your search and read middle grade or YA novels that share some of the characteristics of Alice, like themes, devices, genre or tone.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a portal fantasy, a subgenre of fantasy that sees a character travel to another world via a threshold or item of some sort – a wardrobe, a fireplace, a book. Typically, the protagonist leaves behind their familiar, ‘regular’ world (usually our world) and explores a completely new one full of magic. To update your knowledge of this genre, go hunting for current portal fantasies like Octavia Bloom and the Missing Key, Wintersong and the Portal & Co series.

If it’s Carroll’s mix of prose and poetry you love, check out some children’s and YA novels in verse, like Starfish, Red, White and Whole, Home is Not a Country and Run, Rebel.

Maybe you love that combination of whimsical fairytale world and the slightly unsettling, threatening tone running through the story. Try The Hazel Wood series or The Clackity.


Thanks so much for reading, lovely writer! Want empowering, feel-good writing chat and fairy dust in your inbox? Plus receive a PDF of my recommended writing craft books for children’s and YA writers (including go-to genre guides and Children’s Lit MA reading list) AND £20 Wolf Credit to spend with me! Sign up today!

Siobhan O'Brien Holmes

Siobhan O'Brien Holmes is a developmental editor working with middle grade and YA authors. She specialises in speculative and genre fiction, particularly horror, fantasy, mystery, sci-fi and anything with a dash of magic or macabre. She is a member of the SfEP, EFA, ACES, British Fantasy Society, Horror Writers Association and SCBWI. She has an MA in Novel Writing and an MA in Children's Literature.

All stories by: Siobhan O'Brien Holmes