“I should like a world in between, I think… [f]ancies and whimsies who don’t quite know their place,

but don’t try to kill you, either.”

Author Liz Braswell curiously and courageously takes up the challenge of revisiting Alice in Wonderland in Disney’s newest Twisted Tale, Unbirthday.

As a fan of the Twisted Tale series, I had high hopes for this book. I was not disappointed.

What is Unbirthday about?

The story, essentially a sequel to the 1951 Disney film, takes place many years after Alice’s initial visit to Wonderland. Alice is now 18 years old and spends her golden afternoons in the ‘real’ world of Kexford, England, taking photographs, chatting with her Aunt Vivian or visiting the children in the Square, while avoiding her sister Mathilda’s matchmaking efforts.

When Alice develops some of her recent photographs of the townsfolk, she notices familiar faces from her past appear in the images. They are none other than those she met in Wonderland! Caterpillar, Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts. An eerie message from the allusive Mary Ann is also among them, and Alice will stop at nothing to get to the bottom of it… whatever ‘it’ is.

Jam-packed with adventure, dreaming and plenty of off-with-her-head red, readers will be transported back to Wonderland with Alice. But this time, it means saving the world. This one and that one.

Wonderland on Paper

The more I read, the more impressed I was. It is hard enough to understand what you are looking at when you see Wonderland and its various inhabitants on screen, let alone putting such images together on paper without the help of illustrations, but Braswell manages this with ease.

Braswell artfully uses the book medium to slip, tumble, fall, or roll down memory lane with the reader in a fresh, new way. Incorrect or “Nonsense” spelling is a great example of this, giving us a one-way ticket to Wonderland. For example:

        Get yer nasty knows away from us… ‘Oo nose where it’s been?

This is just the kind of Wonderland Nonsense we expect, and yet not the kind that would be made clear on film unless written. Such writing techniques, coupled with consistent treatment of original characters, means readers are not only permitted to revisit Wonderland, but to reimagine it along with Alice in the context of her mission.

Lessons in This World and That World

I always draw many great lessons from Braswell’s books and Unbirthday is no exception.

Two worlds collide when it comes to “winning” – the Queen of Hearts winning her game and the political candidates in the real world winning theirs. Despite the differences between Wonderland and Kexford, the similarities are ironic, exposing the challenges and also the nonsense of our own world.  

Contrarily, Wonderland is “like tea with a toddler… messy but without guilt or rules,” while Kexford is fettered by etiquette and expectation. Wonderland is not only an outlet or dream-time adventure for Alice, but a source of inspiration – giving her courage to challenge injustices and find her place in both worlds.

A Work of Art and Heart

Ultimately, “[a]ll amazing and new things are difficult… but most turn out to be worth it. And everything else is Nonsense.” This is my favorite quote and takeaway from Unbirthday, among many. I now encourage you, dear reader, to find the lessons that most resonate with you in Braswell’s latest work of art and heart.

Unbirthday is currently available for pre-order on Amazon and is set for release on September 1, 2020.