Alice’s Adventures in Lindley Library Wisley

Sarah selects children’s books inspired by tales of exploration …and bugs!

A few weeks ago, as I sat at the front desk of Lindley Library Wisley looking out over Seven Acres, I was delighted to observe a White Rabbit running to and fro across the lawns. He was (of course) there for the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. Since then I have had sightings of the Queen of Hearts and the Mad Hatter himself.

Hand-coloured plate of the oleander hawk moth and caterpillar, Daphnis nerii, from Curtis’s British Entomology, 1823-1840.Alicemania has affected many parts of the garden and the Lindley Library Wisley has not been untouched. The foyer is at present decorated with playing cards and Tenniel’s illustrations, whilst a table in the corner features some tempting jam tarts accompanied by the sign ‘DO NOT EAT ME’. And believe me you wouldn’t want to eat them! In typical Wonderland style they are not what they seem...

As part of my traineeship with the Lindley Library Wisley I was asked to put together some book lists for young Alice fans which would add to these festivities and introduce them to our children’s collection. A collection which consists of story books, picture books, craft books, gardening books, recipe books, information books and more. Needless to say there was a lot to choose from.

So, where to start?

We decided that the first list should be concerned with adventure. Carroll’s novel is entitled Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland after all. The shelves were quickly trawled for any book which dealt with an adventure no matter how small. Some adventures were fictional like Rose’s journey in a teapot found in Rose’s Garden, while others were rooted in history, recounting the tales of plant hunters such as Reginald Farrer (pictured below). The decision-making process was tough, and ultimately I tried to select books which had another link to Wonderland such as teapots or white rabbits.

Alice in Wonderland sculptures in the Jubilee Rose Garden earlier this summer at RHS Garden WisleyThe second list focused on our collection of insect books. It's a list inspired by the caterpillar and so it's naturally headlined by that children’s classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Wonderland’s creatures are wacky and mad, so any books that looked at the bizarre side of bugs made it on to the list. Did you know that two million worms could be counted in a hectare of farmland or that there is a beetle that looks like a violin? Well that is the case according to Nick Arnold’s Ugly Bugs which also features on the finished list.

Printed portrait of plant collector Reginald Farrer (1880-1920)It has been a delight to uncover some of the hidden gems in our children’s collection during the compilation of these lists. No doubt there are other books that deserve a place and I look forward to hearing from our young readers which adventures and bug stories the've discovered.

If you would like to see the complete lists they are available from the Lindley Library Wisley which opens 11am – 4pm daily.

RHS members can borrow from the thousands of gardening books held in the Lindley Libraries – visit our online catalogue.
Even if you are not an RHS member, the Lindley Libraries are open to everyone and provide access to modern collections of books and journals on gardening and related topics. Our heritage collections of rare books, photographs, art and archives are accessible by appointment

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.