The Real Alice in Wonderland

Classic Children's Tale Based on Real Little Girl in the 1860s

It all began with a school project.  Gabriella Rubin's school in Manhattan was having their Book Day, and Gabriella chose "Alice in Wonderland."

"They don't even know that she was a real person," the 18-year-old Gabriella recalled telling her children's book-author mother, Cathy Rubin.

Gabriella said she begged her mother to help her research the story, and the rest is something like a fairy tale.

The journey of the mother-daughter author duo researching the real Alice Liddell was told over and over again to those who met the co-authors of "The Real Alice in Wonderland" at a Borders' book signing on a perfectly sunny Saturday afternoon.

Cathy said she knew that her family had a connection to the story.  "I had an aunt Phil Liddell who actually had tea parties," explained Cathy.  "And when I did something ditzy, my family would say to me, 'Oh, it's the Alice in you!' "

Gabriella took the first step of the investigation by traveling with friends to Oxford University in England. Her trip was a casual one, but many of the photos in the book are from that first trip. "I went with my mom after that and coincidentally they were having Alice Day in Oxford," Gabriella said.

The Rubins learned that Lewis Carroll was a math professor whose secret passion was the new technology of the time - photography. The wealthy Liddell family commissioned Carroll to take photos of their young daughter, Alice, and her sisters. The children were fidgety for the shoots so Carroll would tell them stories to keep them still.

Alice's favorite was the Alice in Wonderland story and the little 8-year-old begged Carroll to write it down. "But it's my story," she would say to the photographer.  Finally he did and although he never believed anyone would want to actually read it, in 1865, "Alice in Wonderland" was published.

"This book is a story that we believe will touch your hearts," Cathy said.

Linda Quinn, office manager of the Fairfield Arts Council, and FAC Chairman Randy Weis attended Saturday's signing at Borders in downtown Fairfield.

"Cathy contacted us about the book signing and we were thrilled to be a part of it," Quinn said.  Children were invited to take part in an "Alice in Wonderland" collage, which will be displayed at the Arts Council, 70 Sanford St.

"We're really pleased and proud to be working on this project today," Weis said, adding that the FAC likes to involve children in the arts and the "Alice in Wonderland" collage "really ties into our mission."

As supporters of the Fairfield Arts Council, Borders will be donating a portion of Saturday's and Sunday's purchases to the FAC when the customer mentions the Arts Council at the time of purchase, said Craig Kennedy, Borders' sales manager.

Also in attendance signing books on Saturday were illustrators Lizzy Rockwell and David Cooper and book designer Deborah Frano.

The Rubins are thrilled with their writing partnership and never imagined that a school project would turn into such success. "They're talking about making a movie!" Cathy said, beaming.


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