Sunday, June 22, 2008

The latest Oz readings

I just got through another bunch of Oz books this past week. So, here are my reactions.

First off were a couple of introductions. Gregory Maguire edited and wrote the introduction to A Wonderful Welcome to Oz, an omnibus of The Marvelous Land of Oz, Ozma of Oz, and The Emerald City of Oz. Good stuff. He very clearly loves Oz. The other introduction was by J. L. Bell for the new Hungry Tiger Press edition of John Dough and the Cherub. Bell provides some intriguing new insights to the story and how it came about. The book istelf, by the way, looks gorgeous. Even if you have the old (and now out-of-print) Dover edition of John Dough, you may seriously want to consider getting this sturdy, bright new one.

Since Michael Buckley, the author of the Sisters Grimm series, will be a guest at this summer's Winkie Convention, I decided to get the complete Sisters Grimm series to take with me. I read the first volume, The Fairy Tale Detectives, last summer, I plunged right in with the second tale, The Unusual Suspects. Someone is committing murder in Ferryport Landing, and Sabrina Grimm is convinced it's one of the Everafters, the fairy tale characters that her ancestors exiled from Europe. But she has a hard time convincing anyone else, until the murders start hitting a little too close to home, and they come after Sabrina. Not a lot of Oz in this one, but there were some mentions. I am really enjoying these books, and hope to finish the series later this year.

Comics, next. I heard about the Japanese manga series Toto! The Wonderful Adventure soon after the first English translated volume came out, and was afraid it may be a while before I could get it. Fortunately, the proprietor of my local comics shop spotted it earlier and thoughtfully ordered a copy anyway. So I read volume 1 with very little idea of what to expect. Fortunately, it does have Oz content. Kakashi, bored by his home life on an island, stows away on an airship looking for adventure. When the airship is hijacked, he ingratiates himself with the gang, and they take him on as a cabin boy. Kakashi (which, by the way, means "scarecrow" in Japanese) also adopts a dog. When the airship lands and he escapes, he runs into a girl named Dorothy, who immediately takes a shine to the dog and names him Toto. This seems to be pretty typical of manga, but the Oz elements are fun, and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next. Fortunately, volume 2 comes out next month, and we've already ordered it at our comic shop.

The Secret Order of the Gumm Street Girls by Elise Primavera was next on the pile. This was a fun read, too. It's a girls' adventure tale (!) about four neighbors who don't really get along, but when danger looms its head one summer vacation, they are forced to cooperate to solve the mystery of the death of their piano teacher and his mysterious red shoes. Yes, lots of nods to the MGM movie, but there's also a healthy dose of references to the books as well. I'm sure Oz fans will have fun playing "spot the reference." Primavery has promised more adventures of the Gumm Street girls, but so far, no announcements.

Next up was In Search of Dorothy by David Anthony, the first volume of a trilogy with the tagline, "What if Oz wasn't a dream?" Yes, this is a sequel to The Movie, completely ignoring the books. What's worse is that Anthony clearly read the book of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, as he makes references to some of the places and characters from that that didn't make it into The Movie. But he also makes up all kinds of other new bits to Oz that just didn't work for me. In this book, it's over twenty years after the end of The Movie, and it seems that the Wicked Witch of the West is making a comeback. So the Scarecrow uses his new tornado machine to travel to the other side of the rainbow to find Dorothy and get back her magic red shoes (no, he's very careful not to actually call them by their real name, probably for legal reason) so that the Wicked Witch can be stopped. This is a self-published, print-on-demand book, and like so many books of that ilk, it could have used a good polish from an editor.

Back to comics, with Dorothy of Oz volume 3 by Son Hee-Joon, the next book in the Korean manhwa series. Mara-Shin (who everyone keeps wanting to call Dorothy) and Abee (codenamed Scarecrow) are on the run from Abee's own people, who all look exactly like him. Then there's a big battle with swords and telekinetic powers and stuff like that. It looks like we're finally going to get to the Tin Woodman next issue. I've only seen four volumes listed—the next one comes out in August—but now I'm starting to wonder just how long this one will go.

Finally, I got to Toto of Oz by my friend Gina Wickwar. This came out two years ago, I bought it last year, and it bubbled to the top of the pile at last. This was a fun, traditional Ozzy romp through all kinds of great little Oz communities while Toto looked for his missing growl (yes, again), King Fith the Fourth of the Scottish-themed town of Kiltoon pined away for his missing bride, and Louisville stable boy Davey and his pony Lollipop try to figure out how to get home. All of these plot threads all come together in the end, in the best tradition of a Ruth Plumly Thompson or Eloise Jarvis McGraw Oz book. Anna-Maria Cool does a terrific job with the illustrations, too. Let's get her to draw pictures for more Oz books!

Wow, that was quite a few. Let's see if I can read a few more next month!

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