Wednesday, January 02, 2008

My latest Oz readings

Yikes! It's been a long time since I've done one of these, and it shows in the huge pile of books I've recently read. So let's just jump right in and start, shall we?

First is the Oz Club's reprint of The Wonder Book by Ruth Plumly Thompson. As it's a collection, I started reading it a few pages at a time soon after I bought it at the 2006 Winkie Convention, so it's actually taken me about a year and a half to read it. It works well in short doses, as each item is usually only two or three pages. These were originally items Thompson wrote for her newspaper column.

The Wizard of Oz and the Magic Merry-Go-Round by Roger S. Baum is a slight little picture book about how two kids find an old merry-go-round that takes them to Oz. A typically not-very-Ozzy Roger Baum book, but Ozma appears, and Victoria Seitzinger's illustrations show other characters from the later books, so at least this isn't just another sideways-sequel to the MGM movie.

Dorothy of Oz. volume 1 by Son Hee-Joon is the first of a series of Korean manhwa reprints, and this is definitely not the same Oz as Baum's. Mara Shin has a dog named Toto, but she lives in Seoul, not Kansas. So why is it that when she starts following a yellow brick road and finds herself in Oz, everyone insists on calling her Dorothy? Definitely intriguing, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the series, which is due later this year.

Another comic I read, this one a lot less recent, is issue 5 of Penguin and Pencilguin. This was an amusing penguin-themed retelling of The Wizard of Oz. Er, and that's really all there is to say about it, isn't there?

The Classic Illustrated Edition of The Night Before Christmas is fascinating, as it includes examples of dozens of different illustrators of this poem. The contrasts were amazing. I picked it up cheap because some of the illustrations are by W. W. Denslow, even though I also have an '80s reprint of Denslow's edition.

Harry Sue by Sue Stauffacher is a novel about a girl whose mother is in jail, and she wants to be bad so she can be arrested and join her. But Harry Sue has a good heart, and it just doesn't seem to work. She's a fan of The Wizard of Oz — the book, not the movie — so there's a lot of Ozzy threads and allusions scattered throughout. My biggesst regret in getting this book? I should have waited for the paperback and it's very Ozzy cover.

Trouble Under Oz by Sherwood Smith. Finally, it bubbled up to the top of the pile, and I got to read this charming follow-up to The Emerald Wand of Oz. This time around, Smith seems to have loosened up and felt more comfortable with Oz and the characters. It involves all kinds of machinations in the Nome Kingdom, including the possibility of civil war, and a few other underground races get involved as well. Definitely a fun, Ozzy read, and my biggest regret is that this looks like it will be the last in the series.

The Scream of the Sacred Ape by L. Frank Baum, originally published a century ago as The Boy Fortune Hunters in China by "Floyd Akers". It's always nice to find a new Baum story to read, and there are very few of them now, so I hope Hungry Tiger Press will continue to put out more reprints like this. But man, this is not Baum's finest hour. The gung-ho pro-West attitude of this book is not out of place for its time, but it sure is embarrassing today! On his deathbed, a Chinese prince tells Sam Steele and his gang how they can rob his own family's tomb. Of course they succeed, but that seems to be mostly due to the fact that they're upstanding, progressive Americans, and they only have to deal with half-savage, ignorant Chinese nobles. Oy…

And that's it! Next time around I have some non-fiction to read, including one by Harold Bloom, who I gather is pretty opinionated, so we'll see how that works.

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