Monthly Archives: July 2016

Final debate of the year

Img_0010We’ve reached the final meeting of the term – so how to finish off another year in Book for Breakfast? In our previous meeting we looked at the different kinds of poetry in Alice in Wonderland, including a verse that appears in the shape of a mouse’s tale, a nonsense poem and a parody of a well-known verse of the time.

MinecraftA parody is a humorous imitation of a song or poem, and the group could think of various examples of current artists who make very popular parodies, including TryHardNinja and his Minecraft parody of Revenge.

In fact, many of the poems in Alice are parodies. Most are based onĀ  verses we no longer know well, but one was certainly familiar:

Twinkle, twinkle little bat, how I wonder what you’re at

Up above the world so high, like a tea tray in the sky

We read out You are old, Father William, which is one such parody, and tried to work out what made it funny. We found comical ideas such as the old man standing on his head incessantly, or Image1turning a somersault in at the door. There was also perfect rhythm and meter, some alliteration (the goose with the bones and the beak), and the fact that in the end the father threatens to kick the son down the stairs.

For our final meeting then, what would be a good activity? Why, a debate of course! Firstly, Rebecca read out the court scene from the end of Alice, in which the knave of hearts is on trial, and Alice is called as a witness. It ends with all the cards flying up into the air, and Alice waking up on the river bank.

Meanwhile, the group were thinking of potential debate topics, arriving at four which we voted on using the patent ‘Cadbury’s method’ in which you place a mini-roll (or in this case a chocolate finger) onto your preferred choice. The potential motions were:

  • footballers are paid too much
  • there should be no school on Fridays
  • advertisements are harmful
  • wrestling is too violent

We chose to argue the case over whether there should be no school on Fridays. Img_0053

The group quickly divided into the proposition team, the opposition team, the chair, the timekeeper and the court photographer.

Img_0029Both teams had good arguments, including that you would have more time with your family and would be better rested (for the proposition) and that it would be expensive for parents who had to work, and that you would miss Friday fish and chips for school lunch (for the opposition).

As usual we had a very structured debate and it was great that everyone knew the format and how to raise a point of information.

Both teams presented their first and second speakers, their summary speakers, and responded Img_0056to the timekeeper and chair.

The meeting came to a close before we had time for a final decision on who had won – so it will have to be declared a draw. Will you all still come to school on a Friday? I hope so.

It has been enormous fun being part of Book for Breakfast and I (Rebecca) am stepping down now because I’m taking on a new role at our secondary school, Banbury Academy. I hope to stay in touch with you all as you continue your brilliant school careers!


Alice’s Oxford

Catherine, my guide

Catherine, my guide

“I have always wanted to go and see the sights in Oxford that inspired Lewis Carroll when he wrote Alice in Wonderland. So when my expert friend Catherine said she would take me on a tour, of course I cried Calloo, Callay, as it was clearly a frabjous day.

We began by going in to Worcester College, one of the colleges that Carroll would have visited while he was living and working in Oxford.

It has beautiful gardens and some people think that one of the Alicetour03passageways may have inspired him to write about Alice longing to be able to squeeze down the corridor to see the ‘loveliest garden you ever saw’. Do you think this could be the right one?

Catherine also showed me the lake in Worcester’s gardens, which is surrounded by birds and seems just like the pool of tears that Alice cries when she is nine feet tall – and which she swims in when she is small. Alicetour05

In the picture you can see me reading from the book while a swan listens, and hopefully enjoys itself. There were also ducks and a moorhen – although no dodo, eaglet or lory as in the story. We did see a dodo carving in the chapel.

Alicetour07Next it was on to see the inspiration for the gryphon, which sits on the main gate to Trinity College. With its dragon-like scales and snout, it closely resembled the drawing in the book.

In mythology, a gryphon is a creature with the head, talons, and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion. Our Annotated Alice book is sure that both Lewis Carroll and Alice, along with her sisters, would have seen it on the Trinity College gates.

Our next stop was Christ Church itself where Lewis Carroll was an academic, and Alice Liddell was the daughter of the Dean. You can go inside, and see further clues such as decorations around the fireplace that resemble Alicetour11Alice’s stretched-out neck illustration when she is first growing bigger.

However, for today, we ventured around to the other side, where you can peep into a garden and see the house where Alice would have lived, next to the Cathedral.

The white window in the middle of the picture, between the foliage, shows the house where the Liddells lived. One of the trees Alicetour10here is credited with giving Carroll the idea to have a Cheshire Cat on a branch.

There are other sights to see, but they will have to wait for another trip to Oxford – and closer study of the book The Annotated Alice.

It was especially lovely, however, to see members of Book for Breakfast involved in the end of year play in their costumes.”

  • Rebecca Mileham






Mysteries of the Mad Hatter’s tea party

TeapartyWhat happened at this week’s Book for Breakfast? We read the chapter of Alice in Wonderland in which Alice sits down to tea with the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the Dormouse.

‘No room! No room!’ cries the party, but Alice could see perfectly well that there was plenty of room, and joined them.

Much of the conversation turned out to be nonsense. However, by consulting the book The Annotated Alice, edited by Martin Gardner, we did find out that there were explanations behind many of the eccentric things mentioned – characters, situations or places that might have inspired Lewis Carrol.

The first of these was the Mad Hatter himself. You might know already that hat-makers in this period were often badly affected by the mercury they used in their work, sometimes behaving oddly. But the book revealed that there was an unusual gentleman called Theophilus Carter, known as the Mad Hatter, who lived in Oxford in this period. He always wore a top hat, and came up with inventions such as the alarm clock bed that would tip the sleeper out automatically at a set time.

There was also the mention of an incident at Lewis Carroll’s own rooms, where he stayed in Christ Church college, Oxford, that might explain the song Alice sings: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little bat, how I wonder what you’re at.Binsey

The story went that Carroll kept toys and games there to amuse children visitors, one of which was a flying toy bat. On a hot day, it flew out of the window and made someone drop a tea-tray.

Finally, there was the question of the treacle well. The girls who live in the well, according to the story, are Elsie, Lacie and Tillie. These are a play on the names of Alice and her sisters. L C is Alice’s older sister Lorina Charlotte. Lacie is an anagram of Alice. And Tillie is short for Matilda, Alice’s younger sister’s nickname.

But the treacle well? It’s a real spring, famed in Victorian times for its supposedly health-giving waters. You can see it today in the village of Binsey, near Oxford, as well as in the picture above.