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Another book identification question about a children's fantasy novel. I read it when I was in early elementary school (around '82 or '83) but I had the sense it was an old book even at that time.

It was a lighthearted story about a young girl who entered a magical fantasy land inhabited by the letters of the alphabet (possibly through magic wallpaper?). It was a full length novel, not just a picture book. If I recall, it was episodic, with each chapter dealing with one letter.

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This could very well be Alice Through the Needle's Eye by Gilbert Adair. Its full title is Alice Through the Needle's Eye: A Third Adventure for Lewis Carroll's Alice and it's indeed the same Alice on a new adventure. She slips through a needle's eye and travels to an alphabet world.

The entire plot really consists of Alice traveling through the Alphabet as she goes along meeting new friends, or rather, creatures and obstacles.

She starts out with a haystack that turns out to be an A-stack, after which she moves on to some spelling Bs.

  • Thanks! Although this sounds very similar, I'm fairly certain it wasn't a sequel to Alice. I was a big Alice in Wonderland fan, I'm sure I would have remembered that detail. – Chris Sunami Aug 15 '15 at 3:33
  • Is there anything specific that you remember that could either confirm our rule out my suggestion? – SQB Aug 18 '15 at 10:23
  • While my book had a very similar episodic structure, the actual events described in the summary at the link you provided don't sound familiar. Also, I believe I read this book before 1984, although it would have been around that time (82 or 83), and I think it wasn't a new book when I read it. – Chris Sunami Aug 18 '15 at 12:56
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After having done some more research I can confirm this book is The Night They Stole the Alphabet by Sesyle Joslin (1968). To quote information I found on it:

Victoria would never have rushed off in the middle of the night after three ordinary robbers, but these had stolen the letters of the alphabet from her bedroom wallpaper, and the pages of all her books were empty of printing as well, so she did not hesitate. Her search for the 26 letters that were scattered far and wide led her first to a baby with a B in its bonnet, and then to the terrifying Madame Muss, a turnabout mermaid who told her to mind her P'S and Q's; a gentle and hospitable owl who invited her to a refreshing cup of T, and a gypsy who predicted that she would soon receive an important letter. And all the while Victoria was pursuing the shadowy robbers...or were they pursuing her?
https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R2VORKYE8FBCO0/ref=cm_cr_dp_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=0152574409

Like Alice down the rabbit hole. Victoria on the trail of the letters lifted from her wallpaper enters a realm where everything is askew but somehow familiar -- either a reminder of home or a satire of mores and manners. The reader knows that she'll eventually retrieve each of the twenty-six letters and suspects that then she'll wake up; and there's a constant threat in the persons of master witch Madame Muzz and her cockney minions the three Robbers, some help from Alexandra the Russian reverse mermaid (fish head, female feet) and tiny hockey goalie Gibson who scorns being called a fairy...
https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/sesyle-joslin-4/the-night-they-stole-the-alphabet/

This has the episodic structure, the alphabet wallpaper, the young girl hero and the light tone I mentioned in the question, and matches my sense that it was a older book when I read it in the 80's. The name "Victoria," the shadowy robbers, and the detail of the fish-headed mermaid all sound right.

The Night They Stole the Alphabet, cover image

EDIT: After requesting this on interlibrary loan, I can now confirm this as the correct answer. The illustrations are very familiar to me, including one with a letter inside a snowglobe.

  • Is there any chance you could request it from your library, maybe as an Inter-Library Loan if they don't have it at your local site? – FuzzyBoots Apr 14 '18 at 20:13
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    It's not anywhere in my local library system, but I was able to located it via ILL, so we'll see... – Chris Sunami Apr 15 '18 at 1:29
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    I read that book as a kid in the 1980s, and reread it in the 1990s. (Found it in public libraries both times.) I feel certain that you have now correctly answered your own question. – Lorendiac Apr 16 '18 at 0:24

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