Monday, September 06, 2010

The latest Oz reading

I've started on my next set of Oz readings — then completely forgot to tell you about them! So, it's time to play catch-up.

  • The Inside Story (The Sisters Grimm series, volume 8) by Michael Buckley. Oh, man, this one was good! If you read the last volume, you know how Ozzy the start to this one was going to be. Sure enough (watch out, possible mild spoilers ahead), Sabrina, Daphne, and Puck get caught up in The Wizard of Oz and end up messing it up terribly. I won't go into detail, as I don't want to ruin any of the surprises, but this was a great read. There is, so far as I know (and I heard this from Michael Buckley himself a few years ago at the Winkie Convention) only going to be one more book, and it feels like this one is gearing up for a big finish. Too bad it's not even being solicited yet...
  • Best in Children's Books Volume 40. I vaguely recall this series being in the library when I was a kid, but I don't recall ever reading one. This was a series of anthology volumes from Nelson Doubleday back in the 1960s or so (this one has a 1960 copyright). Each one seems to be a mixture of classic fiction and articles, so it's almost like a magazine or (for those of you familiar with British popular books) annuals, but in a more substantial, hardback form. This one includes "With Dorothy in Oz", a nice little adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. It is clearly taken from Baum, but the editing really cuts it short. This may be the first adaptation I've ever read that skips over the poppy field! But the real draw for me was the illustrator — Richard Scarry! Yes, the same guy who did Busytown and created Huckle Cat and Lowly Worm also illustrated this version of The Wizard of Oz. His work here isn't quite in his distinctive style, but you can see glimpses of it here and there. He clearly borrowed from the original drawings, as some of the characters are in the same poses Denslow put them in, but Scarry still used his own style, so they're not out-and-out swipes. I recommend this one for fans of modern children's illustrations or Scarry, or those who want to get many different versions of Oz illustrations.
  • I received a complimentary copy of the Barnes and Noble Classics version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz under circumstances I can't talk about yet, but may be able to soon. It's a nice, serviceable, inexpensive edition that not only retains Denslow's original illustrations, but adds some interesting scholarly material as well. It includes a Baum and Oz timeline, an extensive introduction, "The First American Children's Book", by J. T. Barbarese, some notes on the text iself (not as many as Michael Patrick Hearn put in The Annotated Wizard of Oz, of course), an examination of sequels and dramatic spinoffs, some excerpts from reviews and commentaries, study questions, and a bibliography. It's not an edition I would recommend to die-hard Oz nuts, but if you want to introduce someone to the literary side of Oz, this is a good way to get their big toe wet.
  • Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road by F. Douglas Wall. This is it, at long last! An Oz role playing game! I've been wanting to see one of these ever since I first heard about Dungeons and Dragons and the like. I've made a few attempts over the years, but I just don't have an extensive background in gaming. So I'm glad someone else put this together. It's a short, simple little book, which makes sense as the system is pretty simple, too. The emphasis is more on playing the game and not number crunching, thank goodness. So now, with the right people and a little imagination, you can have an adventure in Oz. I hope Wall or someone else thinks up some ideas for additional materials to go with the game, such as some pre-generated characters or adventure ideas. (Full disclosure: I'm listed on the title page as "Additional material by:" but all I did was offer a couple of suggestions.) Some of us are going to see about getting a session going at next year's Winkie Convention...

1 comment:

Doug Wall said...

Thanks for the plug, Eric, and I'm glad you like the game. I post game stats for classic Oz characters every month on my blog, but not much by way of adventure material. That's something I should probably work on.