by Gregory Maguire
Alice is missing.
This is not headline news. Alice is often missing. She is missing, that is to say, when not underfoot, and when Alice is not underfoot, she is generally missing. Her parents are in the habit of sending her upstairs to play, or out to play, in the custody of her cat Dinah or of her elder sister Lydia or perhaps with the neighboring vicar’s girl, poor malformed Ada Boyce. It is particularly desirable that Alice not be underfoot today, because today Papa has a visitor: the famous heretic Darwin, a distant relative, come despite his feeble health to offer belated condolences after the death of Mama.
No one is certain just where Alice is. Soon, a number of the Oxford youngsters are even more unsure than her governess, for they have found themselves in a place peopled with white rabbits and tartless queens where one side of a door says KEEP OUT and the opposite side says OUT KEEP and where the best advice is not to take any advice at all.