The Looking Glass Wars, Book 1



The violent "truth" behind Alice in Wonderland.
Popular with kids

What parents need to know


Battles with swords, knives, and guns; many deaths, including a beheading.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Drinking and drunkenness, smoking a hookah, imagination-enhancing drugs.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this isn't a quaint nonsense story like the classic book that inspired it: There are violent battles, deaths, and beheadings. The heroine's mother dies.

What's the story?

Forget what you thought you knew about Alice and Wonderland -- this book purports to tell the truth behind the fairy tale.

Alyss, princess of the Queendom of Wonderland, barely escapes with her life when her Aunt Redd kills her parents in a bloody coup. Pursued by The Cat, an assassin created by Redd (a witch-like practitioner of Black Imagination), Alyss jumps through the Pool of Tears and ends up in Victorian London, where, after living as a street urchin and in an orphanage, she's adopted by the Liddell family of Oxford. \

\ Frustrated that no one will believe the story of her past, she's at first thrilled when family friend Charles Dodgson seems to believe her. But when he turns it into a fairy tale, she's devastated and resolves to forget Wonderland and assimilate as a normal British person. Eventually she grows up and forgets about Wonderland, or sees it only as a childish fantasy. But back in Wonderland her persecuted followers, the Alyssians, take up a guerrilla resistance to the harsh rule of Queen Redd.

Is it any good?


A sea-change is happening in children's book publishing, taking nearly a decade to come to its logical culmination in this book. Written by a movie producer, plotted and paced like a movie, and promoted like one too, THE LOOKING GLASS WARS is a book designed for one thing -- to grab kids by the seat of the pants and keep them excitedly turning the pages. It accomplishes its goal with verve and imagination.

Alice in Wonderland purists shouldn't even open the book -- this isn't for them. The Wonderland depicted here is both more horrific and more exciting than the surreal place Carroll imagined. Filled with monsters, magic, and a mixture of technologies, it's at once more fantastic and more grounded in the reality of war and totalitarian repression than its predecessor. Though The Looking Glass Wars is filled with topics for discussion (from literature to politics, history, and biography) and includes many parallels to events in today's world, this story is essentially fun -- well-written, well-constructed, lovingly thought-out and produced fun. It will do no harm at all to Carroll's classic -- which has always held more appeal for adults than children anyway -- and may interest a new generation of readers in the original.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how this book compares to Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. How does the author derive his story from Carroll's very different book? Do his interpretations seem reasonable?

Book details

Author:Frank Beddor
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Penguin Group
Publication date:September 26, 2006
Number of pages:384
Publisher's recommended age(s):10 - 14
Read aloud:9
Read alone:10

This review of The Looking Glass Wars, Book 1 was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Educator Written byLens cap amy June 11, 2013

A good book for young or old

I love this book. My best friends son and i love reading and its a challenge to find a book we bolth like and this was a perfect match. I love how Beddor changed the names ( the mad hatters real name Is Hatter Madigan) the story never laged or got borring. It's a page turner that you wont want to put down. There is some violence, Alyss family is killed in the beginning of the book.
Kid, 12 years old January 12, 2015

Once you read the story you'll never be same!

Once you read the story you'll never be same! Is´t true I swear I see an Alice in Wonderland book or image i just say in my mind "If they new the truth" I LOVE IT!! I'm reading the second book and hope is awesome too!! I hope the movie wich they are looking foward to also is incredible... If you haven´t readit don´t waste your time and start reading is amazing!!!! Just 4 words to conclude: Dodge Anders is MINE! <3
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Teen, 13 years old Written byAlyss Heart November 24, 2009

Brilliant for all!

What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Star Wars Guide