The Illustrated Wartime Correspondence of Hendrik Willem van Loon

One of my favorite duties as a graduate assistant is working the reference desk in the Maryland Room. Having only been a part of Special Collections and University Archives for less than a year, there are still a number of collections I haven’t seen, and helping others with their research is one way that I get to learn more about our holdings. Recently, a researcher introduced me to the illustrated letters of Hendrik Willem van Loon in the Helen Sioussat papers. I was delighted by the brightly colored, whimsical illustrations van Loon drew on the envelopes he sent Sioussat, and seeing them inspired me to learn more about the two friends, both of whom were compelling historical figures I knew little about.

Illustration of a whale on an envelope by Hendrik Willem van Loon, sent via airmail to Helen Sioussat in Nassau, Bahamas

Envelope from a letter from Hendrik Willem van Loon to Helen Sioussat, February 24, 1941

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Curator Pick: Favorite Item from the Alice 150 Exhibit

How could I possibly choose one item out of so many amazing ones as my favorite?! Early on, I digitized the majority of the items that are in the exhibit, allowing me time to really look through every book as I scanned it. Needless to say, I have quite a few favorites! In order for me to dwindle my list down to one, I focused on one criteria: what was the book that made me completely stop what I was doing because it was so curious? For me, that is my lasting impression of Alice from my childhood, and why I still relate to Carroll’s story as an adult.  Alice’s curiosity, the curiosity of the characters and the world that is Wonderland continues to draw people back time and time again.

My favorite would have to be Alitjinya ngura Tjukurtjarangka [Alitji in the Dreamtime], illustrated by Byron W. Sewell. I was incredibly surprised when I first picked it up to find the White Rabbit was a kangaroo!

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This was definitely one the cleverest re-imaginings of the Alice characters that I had encountered and stood on its own as a story that illustrated Wonderland in a different culture so well. Sewell’s illustrations are at once similar and arrestingly different than the traditional Alice. His characters are often ethereal, but when he does have them grounded, he depicts the earth with geometric patterns.

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Note how realistic Alice looks, but how drastically altered the rest of the characters are depicted.

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This is also a bilingual edition, translated into Pitjantjatjara and adapted into Australian English. I enjoy editions with this added factor because it reaches a whole new audience and easily teaches them a little something that could lead to something more. This item is the epitome of what this exhibit aims to represent and why I always include it as an example when I’m describing the exhibit to others.

Honorable mentions [this was inevitable!]:
1. Sakuba‘s intense and instantly classic characters:

2. Rackham‘s muted color scheme and Wonderlandians’ long, spindly features:

3. Kállay‘s warm colors and delightful tea party:

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For your listening enjoyment:

Explore this item and more works by Lewis Carroll in our Alice 150 Years and Counting exhibit, now open to the public in Hornbake Library at the University of Maryland.


Brin Winterbottom is a graduate student at the University of Maryland iSchool. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. She currently works in Hornbake’s Digital Conversion Media Reformatting Center and is conducting her field study with the Alice exhibit team. 

Yuletide Books: On display now in the Maryland Room

Yuletide Books From Special C

Get into the holiday spirit than by visiting the Special Collections Literature and Rare Books Collection in Hornbake Library! On display now in the Maryland Room are books written by celebrated authors about the holiday season or retelling classic tales. Visit the UMD Libraries hours website for our holiday hours – you definitely don’t want to miss this display!

The Night Before Christmas, Clement C. Moore Yuletide books by Alcott, Mencken, and HemingwayCharles Dickens: A Christmas Carol miniature bookDisplay Case

Books featured in the display include:

  • The Night Before Christmas, Clement C. Moore. Porter & Caotes: Philadelphia, 1883
  • A Christmas Story, Katherine Anne Porter. Mademoiselle: New York, 1958
  • The Cultivation of Christmas Trees, T.S. Eliot. Farrar, Straus and Cudahy: New York
  • Two Christmas Tales, Ernest Hemingway. The Hart Press: Berkeley, 1959
  • A Christmas Dream, Louisa May Alcott. Little, Brown & Co.: Boston. 1901
  • The Wood-Pile, Robert Frost. Spiral Press: New York, 1961
  • Christmas Verse. Oxford University Press: New York, 1945
  • The Untold Adventures of Santa Claus, Ogden Nash. Little, Brown & Co.: Boston, 1962
  • A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens. G. Routledge: London, 1880
  • Old Christmas, Washington Irving. Judd and Dettweiler: Washington, 1934
  • Come Christmas: A selection of Christmas poetry, song, drama, and prose, Lesley Frost. Coward-McCann Inc.: New York, 1935