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Total votes: 171

Before Harry there was Alice

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Did you know that Harry Potter is the fifth best-selling book worldwide, with over 107 million copies sold and that it is now the best-selling children's novel? But did you also know that before Harry Potter, the best-selling children's novel of all time was Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland? It may seem hard to believe for those of you who know the topsy-turvy world of Wonderland, with its endearing Mad Hatter and its frightening Queen of Hearts who is so fond of yelling for people to be beheaded. Yet it's not just children that these two novels appeal to. Adult readers love both stories too. But why?

As a child, I loved both books equally and have fond memories of my brothers, and even my mum, all fighting over each newly released Harry Potter book, so that in the end Mum decided to read us a chapter every night, like she used to when we were little children! However, it is not until I read the books for a second time, as an adult studying literature, that I realise the depth of the language hidden in both. Did you realise that, in Harry Potter, 'Diagon Alley' is actually 'Diagonally'? And that 'Knockturn Alley' is 'Nocturnally' (at night)? Each, of course, have their own connotation within the magic world.

Both authors tell their stories by using poems too. Have a read of the nonsense poem 'Jabberwocky' in Alice and Wonderland and 'The Sorting Hat Song' in Harry Potter. Both authors loved playing with language and J. K. Rowling uses Latin and obsolete words (words which are old-fashioned and no longer used). Here are a few examples:

  • 'Dumbledore' is old English for 'bumblebee', because she pictured Dumbledore humming to himself.
  • Apparate and disapparate combine the words 'appear', 'disappear' and 'evaporate'.
  • Protego Totalum means 'total protection'.
  • Grimmauld Place is a grim (depressing or serious) old place.

Have you ever read Alice in Wonderland or a Harry Potter book? What did you think?


wiseteen's picture
wiseteen 23 May, 2017 - 23:58

I prefer Harry Potter <3 <3 <3 actually, I'm a potterhead (a fan of Harry Potter series) although mes tastes in litterature are so difficult, I think that these books are captivating and I can't get over them.

24 users have voted.
Vannessa's picture
Vannessa 16 May, 2017 - 02:32

I love reading. Reading helps us with feelings that do not exist, fostering the feelings we have , so we should read good books.
Anyway, in my mind I prefer Alice in Wonderland to Harry Potter. Actually, Alice is one of the person I like. Alice came to my life in an interesting way. It was like a gentle gust of wind blowing into my life. Alice is my childhood.

27 users have voted.
catastrophe's picture
catastrophe 24 February, 2017 - 16:27

Well, I can't say. AIW was one of my favorite childhood books, one I used to reread so many times. I can still remember so many details... like Mad Hatter's party, the court of the Queen, Alice's falling, etc.... and for HP, I just read it recently. It has a unique feel of magic... and it was quite humorous too... so I'm neutral.

36 users have voted.
EllenBlogger's picture
EllenBlogger 16 January, 2017 - 11:28

Hi all,

Thank you for your comments. 

It's interesting that you didn't like Alice in Wonderland as much as Harry Potter. I think Harry Potter is modern and much easier to understand and easier to relate to, as it contains normal people, but I like Alice in Wonderland because the story is a dream and therefore not confined to the usual boundaries of life. 

Obrien, it is interesting that you think Alice in Wonderland is creepy- it really is. Elsa, I also don't like 'slow' book (books which contain a lot of description and take a long time to read!) I read a lot of classics and although I love them, sometimes there is too much description and not enough action. 

 I'm glad you all love Harry Potter! It's wonderful and it was such a big part of my childhood! 


49 users have voted.
Obrien's picture
Obrien 27 December, 2016 - 12:08

As a young reader, I found Alice in Wonderland creepy and rather distasteful. The movie was better than the book.

50 users have voted.
Elsa007's picture
Elsa007 28 December, 2016 - 12:08

Interesting comment, Obrien!
I think you must be a reader with a fertile imagination!✨
Obrien in Wonderland! :))

48 users have voted.
Elsa007's picture
Elsa007 22 December, 2016 - 14:46

Hi Ellen, I like this part: "However, it is not until I read the books for a second time, as an adult studying literature, that I realise the depth of the language hidden in both."
The delight of discovery makes us feel sure that we are growing!
In this light, I like both stories✨
I don't like books which bring about the sense of stagnation......

55 users have voted.
fay4's picture
fay4 21 December, 2016 - 10:42

I didn't read them but I watched the movies ... I think Alice is a bit silly but Harry Potter is AWESOME

50 users have voted.
Elsa007's picture
Elsa007 26 January, 2017 - 01:39

Hi fay,
I think Alice is not a real girl, she's a representational model.
That's why she becomes bigger and smaller in a wonderland. What do you think she represents??

44 users have voted.