The New York Public Library Puts Classic Stories on Instagram: Start with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Read Kafka’s The Metamorphosis Soon

I’d be hap­py if I could think that the role of the library was sus­tained and even enhanced in the age of the com­put­er. —Bill Gates

The New York Pub­lic Library excels at keep­ing a foot in both worlds, par­tic­u­lar­ly when it comes to engag­ing younger read­ers.

Vis­i­tors from all over the world make the pil­grim­age to see the real live Win­nie-the-Pooh and friends in the main branch’s hop­ping children’s cen­ter.

And now any­one with a smart­phone and an Insta­gram account can “check out” their dig­i­tal age take on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adven­tures in Won­der­landno library card required. See Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Work­ing with the design firm Moth­er, the library has found a way to make great page-turn­ing use of the Insta­gram Sto­ries plat­formmore com­mon­ly used to share blow-by-blow pho­to­graph­ic evi­dence of road trips, restau­rant out­ings, and hash-tagged wed­dings.

The Won­der­land expe­ri­ence remains pri­mar­i­ly text-based.

In oth­er words, sor­ry, har­ried care­givers! There’s no hand­ing your phone off to the pre-read­ing set this time around!

No trip­py Dis­ney teacups…

Sir John Ten­niel’s clas­sic illus­tra­tions won’t be spring­ing to ani­mat­ed life. Instead, you’ll find con­cep­tu­al artist Magoz’s bright min­i­mal­ist ding­bats of key­holes, teacups, and pock­et watch­es in the low­er right hand cor­ner. Tap your screen in rapid suc­ces­sion and they func­tion as a crowd-pleas­ing, all ages flip book.

Else­where, ani­ma­tion allows the text to take on clever shapes or reveal itself line by linea pleas­ant­ly the­atri­cal, Cheshire Cat like approach to Carroll’s impu­dent poet­ry.

Remem­ber the famous scene where the Duchess and the Cook force Alice to mind a baby who turns into a pig? Grab some friends and hunch over the phone for a com­mu­nal read aloud! (It’s on page 75 of part 1)

Speak rough­ly to your lit­tle boy,

 And beat him when he sneezes:

 He only does it to annoy,

 Because he knows it teas­es


 (In which the cook and the baby joined)

 ‘Wow! wow! wow!’ 

Nav­i­gat­ing this new media can be a bit con­fus­ing for those whose social media flu­en­cy is not quite up to speed, but it’s not hard once you get the hang of the con­trols.

Tap­ping the right side of the screen turns the page.

Tap­ping left goes back a page.

And keep­ing a thumb (or any fin­ger, actu­al­ly) on the screen will keep the page as is until you’re ready to move on. You’ll def­i­nite­ly want to do this on ani­mat­ed pages like the one cit­ed above. Pre­tend you’re play­ing the flute and you’ll save a lot of frus­tra­tion.

The library plans to intro­duce your phone to Char­lotte Perkins Gilman’s short sto­ry “The Yel­low Wall­pa­per” and Franz Kafka’s The Meta­mor­pho­sis via Insta­gram Sto­ries over the next cou­ple of months. Like Alice, both works are in the pub­lic domain and share an appro­pri­ate com­mon theme: trans­for­ma­tion.

Use these links to go direct­ly to part 1 and part 2 of Alice’s Adven­tures in Won­der­land on Insta­gram Sto­ries. Both parts are cur­rent­ly pinned to the top of the library’s Insta­gram account.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Behold Lewis Carroll’s Orig­i­nal Hand­writ­ten & Illus­trat­ed Man­u­script for Alice’s Adven­tures in Won­der­land (1864)

Alice in Won­der­land: The Orig­i­nal 1903 Film Adap­ta­tion

The Psy­cho­log­i­cal & Neu­ro­log­i­cal Dis­or­ders Expe­ri­enced by Char­ac­ters in Alice in Won­der­land: A Neu­ro­science Read­ing of Lewis Carroll’s Clas­sic Tale

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Join her in NYC on Mon­day, Sep­tem­ber 24 for anoth­er month­ly install­ment of her book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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