Whether falling down a rabbit hole, being swept off by a tornado, or carefully stepping into an old wardrobe, entering a new world can be an exhilarating experience. Today's most exciting new world is entered rather quietly: A few clicks of the mouse take us to the infinite world of the Internet. The Internet provides remarkable entries into old worlds of the imagination as well as new pathways for teachers and students to share the exploration of fantasy literature.
Little did Lewis Carroll know well over 100 years ago that his book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland would become one of the most well-known children's books of all time. It's a childhood favorite of mine, and I've enjoyed reading it aloud to my own students and introducing them to the enormous range of illustrators for this remarkable book. Most of us know Alice best from the Disney movie, but she has had many looks over the decades, from a young flapper to a very up-to-date child. Teachers and older students who want to dig deeper will find more than they could hope for at the Lewis Carroll Home Page, a trove of information and links related to Carroll and his work.
From the very British Alice, let's change our focus to the all-American Dorothy, blown from Kansas to Oz in L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz. Many of us today know Oz best through the 1939 MGM movie with Judy Garland, but the book remains a delight and is very comfortable reading for middle grade elementary students. A terrific, richly illustrated site is that of Piglet Press, a publisher of audio books, on the fantasy land of Oz and its characters. Have your students check out the Tin Woodman or others, and then do their own character descriptions and audio recordings. After reading the book and viewing the movie, my class has always been fascinated by the differences between the two. Why, for instance, do Dorothy's silver shoes of the book become ruby slippers in the movie?
And finally back to England and through the wardrobe to Narnia, the wonderful land first introduced by C. S. Lewis in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Six more books about Narnia followed, as well as videos, adaptations, and multiple readings by generations upon generations of children. Into the Wardrobe: The C. S. Lewis website is a good place to start on the Internet. There, older children can get many answers to questions about Lewis and the Narnia books.