Saturday, December 25, 2010

Susan Jeffers' Snow Queen

Merry Christmas everyone! Happy Winter Holidays and such!

I'm taking a week off. I'll see you in 2011!

For now, something cold and frosty yet also quite delightful, an illustration from Amy Ehrlich's Snow Queen, drawn by Susan Jeffers:

May the rest of your year be a happy ever after.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol

ACCORDING TO MY DAD, this is the best movie version ever of A Christmas Carol. Every year, the debate rages on: Muppets, or Magoo?

And, to be fair, I randomly throughout the year find myself singing the chorus of this song:

(But come on, it's not better than the Muppet Christmas Carol....)

This is a fun version, and at only 53 minutes, I find it a great one to watch after Christmas eve services, when I need something to wind down to and knock myself out (omg tomorrow is Christmas omg omg squeeeeee!---yeah, you know what I'm talking about). It's one of the sillier adaptations, more focused on Mr. Magoo's eyesight than the particular lessons that may be found within the tale. And for some reason, the ghosts show up in the wrong order.

For all that, if you haven't seen it, well, it's a CLASSIC! Check it out!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Muppet Christmas Carol

This is the best movie version ever made of A Christmas Carol.

Okay, so having said that... there are a lot of versions of A Christmas Carol, and I like an awful lot of them. This is the only version that I watch every year, though, and it has my wholehearted endorsement. Although, I suppose if you don't like the Muppets, you won't like this version. (Are... are there people who don't like the Muppets???)

My one quibble here is with the DVD version released in 2005. It features both the complete full screen version, and a widescreen theatrical release with a scene cut. (The scene where, in the past, Scrooge's fiancée bids him farewell for the final time.) The movie makes sense without it, but the scene loses almost all of its impact (yes I'm talking about a Muppet movie) without the farewell song.

So you can watch the movie with that scene in full screen, or without that scene in widescreen. I hope they'll do better and include it on a bluray release in the near future. In the meantime, if you want this and you haven't bought it, it might be worth waiting to see if another release is around the corner. (Or you might not have the same little quibble that I do!)

(Also, I will never get tired of Michael Caine saying, "It's Fozziewig's old Rubber Chicken factory!" with a straight face.)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Santa Claus: The Movie

The first 15 minutes of Santa Claus the Movie feature the Santa origin story I believed in for most of my young life. An old toymaker and his wife travel from house to house on Christmas eve delivering toys, but when, one year, a blizzard gets to be too much, they find themselves far from home--at the north pole, in fact, of course. And then the man becomes Santa Claus, with special powers, so that he can continue his toy giving tradition for children all over the world.

Then, of course, complications arise, and it's up to Santa to save the day. Will he succeed? It's a Christmas movie, what do you think?

I still have a fond spot in my heart for the opening scenes, the storytelling and the carved wooden toys. I'm less able to sit through the 80s stylings of the Elf (Dudley Moore) and corporate toymaker (John Lithgow) and their Christmas 2 plot... But it is still the first thing I think of when I think of John Lithgow.

This is a fun one for the kids, and if you haven't seen it, it's worth checking out or borrowing, at least, for the beginning, still one of my favorite Santa stories. And David Huddleston is still the ultimate Santa, if you ask me.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Marly's Ghost by David Levithan

The title caught my attention. "Marly's Ghost? Sounds like a reference to A Christmas Carol." It surely is. Marly's Ghost, by David Levithan, is A Christmas Carol reimagined for Valentine's Day. Sometimes directly from the original text, and sometimes morphed into modern language patterns, this poignant story tells of a heartbroken teen rediscovering the meaning of love on a special Valentine Eve.

Marly's Ghost

I can't say it was the best story adaptation I ever read, but it was a fresh and interesting take on a story that's been done many times around the Christmas holiday. At times the classic writing style and the modernizations seemed to clash. It's worth checking out if you like the original tale or if you love Valentine's Day. Or hate Valentine's Day. Have strong feelings about Valentine's Day, either way.

Monday, December 20, 2010

When Santa Fell to Earth by Cornelia Funke

Tired of a fat, old Santa pulled by eight reindeer? Of one man making the rounds of the entire earth in a single night? Of jolly elves making toys at the north pole? Well, who really gets TIRED of that?

BUT if you would like a variation on the Santa Claus mythology, perhaps you might enjoy When Santa Fell to Earth, by Cornelia Funke, a fresh take on how Santa gets to everyone in one night.

When Santa Fell to Earth

I read through this in one delightful sitting, so I'd recommend it as a quick read for a holiday afternoon, or as something to share with children as a chapter-a-day read through the holiday season. It's imaginative, fresh, funny, and sweet, and a perfect Christmas treat.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Curse Dark As Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Charlotte Miller is stubborn, a family trait. So when the mill is left to her, instead of giving it up, she continues to run it, in spite of the doubts of her family and neighbors, in spite of the fact that she's a woman.

Fighting debt and a strangely unlucky mill, a sweet, subtle love story, and a family bond weave together in this skillful reimagining of Rumpelstiltskin (or Jack Spinner, here). This is one of my favorite retellings, rich and deeply layered, with more nuance than many of the books aimed at the same age group.

It won a number of awards, and having read it, I can see why. If you haven't read this one yet, you're in for a treat.

Also check out Ms. Bunce's website for more information on this and her newest book, Star-Crossed.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Storyteller's Daughter by Cameron Dokey

From the "Once Upon a Time" series comes another retelling by Cameron Dokey, this one following the young storyteller Sharhazad as she steps forward to save the lives of the women of her kingdom from a grieving, rage-filled king who has vowed to kill each of his brides before they can dishonor him.

Dokey lightens the tale by making Sharhazad the first of the king's wives--thus he hasn't had scores of women executed by the time she marries him. She begins telling him a tale which weaves through the rest of Dokey's narrative, offsetting the main action. This book focuses on Sharazad rather than the stories, with only one main story continued night after night. In fact I found the story Sharazad told more memorable than her own story--at least that is the imagery which sticks with me the best.

This is a quick read, as most in the series are, and not overly complex. Still, it's one of my favorites from the "Once Upon a Time" set, and it's rarer to find an adaptation of the Arabian Nights than, say, Cinderella.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

Wyrd Sisters: Or, Terry Pratchett's Macbeth.

Honestly, I am not sure who I'm recommending this to, other than anyone, everyone, who hasn't read it. While it is a retelling of a famous story, it's a retelling in the loosest terms. Yet as I reread it recently, I couldn't help but notice how much fairy tale tropery Pratchett uses--and turns on his head.

For lovers of fantasy and folklore, you could do a lot worse than to pick up a Discworld novel, and this is a great starting place. If you're not familiar with the series, the first book is The Colour of Magic. However, the series is made of subseries, and Wyrd Sisters is the first one featuring my favorite character, Granny Weatherwax, an extraordinary witch and headologist.

Plus: Macbeth! Shakespeare! And other fairy tale references.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre: The Nightingale

Mick Jagger? Whaaat! But it's true. Mick Jagger stars as the emperor in Faerie Tale Theatre's version of The Nightingale. So I guess we know what he's talking about when he has a musical preference.

This episode is a little weird, and I mean that in a good way. Although not always successful, this is the first time you see Faerie Tale theatre branch out from the staple, common fairy tales for one that's a little less known, which I have to admire. You may have your own opinion about a bunch of white folks playing Chinese people... sigh...

The pacing on this one is pretty good, there is enough story to carry the hour-long episode. And it was nice to see the cast change up a little bit. Faerie Tale Theatre was starting to find its feet by now and it shows in the writing and directing.

(I've chosen to review all the Faerie Tale Theatre episodes separately because they vary so much and cover so many different stories. Also: reading/watching the material for this blog takes a lot of time! I hope you enjoy the slightly more in depth reviews this way.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Although everyone I know knows the story of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and many people in my acquaintance have even read the original book, the numbers decrease significantly when I ask who's read any beyond the first book. With that in mind, I thought I'd take a day each month to highlight one of the Oz books, giving a small summary and some general information.

With that in mind, I bring you:

The Marvelous Land of Oz -- OR -- The Gender Wars of Oz, as I've come to think of Book 2.

Marvelous Land of Oz

Magical Characters Introduced:

Jack Pumpkinhead
The Gump

Other Introductions:

Ozma of Oz
Thoroughly Educated Wogglebug

Old Friends:

Tin Woodman
Glinda the Good


General Jinjur
Mombi the Witch

Magical Treasures of Oz:

Powder of Life
Wishing Pills

Baum's first trip back to Oz revolved around a little boy named Tip who is the servant of the witch, Mombi. She falls into the bad witch category, and Tip takes a chance to scare her with his invention, Jack Pumpkinhead, as she's returning home. She isn't fooled, however, and uses the stick-and-pumpkin man to test her newly acquired Powder of Life, bringing Jack to life. Then she tells Tip that she'll turn him into a marble statue as revenge for trying to scare her, which is just crossing a line. So Tip and Jack Pumpkinhead steal the Powder of Life, that night, and run away.

In the process they bring the Saw-Horse to life for Jack to ride, since his wooden joints are wearing out with the walking.

The companions then run into General Jinjur and her All Girl Army, who are all about Girl Power and are invading the Emerald City to take over from the Scarecrow, who has ruled there since the Wizard's departure.

The Girl Power Army takes over Oz with a minimum of trouble, in spite of Tip, Jack, and the Saw-Horse joining up with the Scarecrow. They escape by creating The Gump, a hodgepodge creature made from whatever the characters can gather and the Powder of Life. (You may remember the Gump if you saw the 1985 Return to Oz film, which borrowed heavily from books 2 and 3 of the Oz books, while still being its own (Disney) movie.)

The Gump flies the companions out to the middle of nowhere, where a run-in with some Jackdaws leaves them unable to travel any further. They discover that, along with the Powder of Life, they have some Wishing Pills, which they make use of to reach Glinda.

Glinda reveals that the rightful ruler of Oz is, in fact, a girl--have you guessed it yet? Ozma of Oz. Unfortunately nobody knows where Ozma is. Glinda only knows that Ozma was hidden by the Wizard some years ago, and has discovered that Mombi was probably involved.

So the whole crew head back to the Emerald City to confront Mombi. After some rigmarole, Mombi reveals that Ozma is in fact Tip, transformed as a baby.

Well, naturally, Tip is happy as a boy and doesn't want to be transformed back (gender issues, much?), but his companions convince him to accept his destiny and he allows Glinda to turn him back into Ozma, who leads her crew in a reconquering of the Emerald City, where she sets up housekeeping, as it were.

There you have it: Girls win. Booyah.

In spite of my somewhat slightly marginally sarcastic commentary, this is another fun romp, as imaginative and adventurous as Dorothy's first sojourn into Oz. I highly recommend HarperCollin's reproduction editions, with the original John Neill illustrations throughout. It's gorgeous and exact down to the typos.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

The cover art is definitely the first thing that caught my attention here. Isn't it spectacular? After I saw it, I had to read the book right away!

And it was well worth it. I thought at first that it started a little slowly, but thinking back on it, I was thrown by the present-tense narration. Once I got used to that, the story was fast-paced and exciting.

This is the story of Scarlett and Rosie, two sisters who, at a very young age, have a run-in with a Fenris. From then on, their lives revolve around hunting the Fenris, werewolf-like creatures who run in packs and prey on young girls. The book begins with the return of their friend and fellow hunter, Silas--from a family of woodsmen. When the three hunters realize that there is a new potential (a man who can be changed into a Fenris if they can find and bite him), they decide to intensify their hunting by going to the city where the Fenris congregate.

I really enjoyed Ms. Pearce's play on werewolf mythology--because her Fenris are not quite werewolves, and are altogether creepy. And--this is not so much a retelling as a derivative of Little Red Riding Hood. Skillfully told, this exciting tale manages to be a strong message against rape culture without ever getting on a soap box. The sisters are both powerful characters, and the romance side-story is delicious. And frankly, the visual descriptions were fantastic--it made me want to see the movie version.

Jackson Pearce has a website with blog and info.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow is based on one of my all-time favorite fairy tales. If you guessed East of the Sun, West of the Moon, you are correct. I mention that it's my favorite because it takes very little for an author to draw me into this tale in a retelling, so take my exuberant praise with a grain of salt if you're not fond of the Norwegian tale.

Ms. George starts her story with a fairly traditional Norwegian family. Her first variant is that the main character has no name, as the mother is so tired of having children she can't be bothered to name her youngest daughter. So the girl -- or pika, or lass -- is mostly left to her own devices, growing up.

When she finds and frees a lucky white reindeer, she is gifted not only with a name, but with the ability to understand animals. Through this skill she is able to make something of herself and for her family, helping those with problem animals. And she gains her best friend, a wolf-pup named Rollo. As you can imagine, when a polar bear comes to call on her family, understanding animals comes in handy.

This one was really a gimme for me. I enjoyed the Lass's exploration of the ice palace, and her curiosity and endless questions drew out my curiosity and endless questions. Ms. George's variations served the story, which still had all the elements of the tale that I love. If you're a fan of this tale, be sure to pick this one up.

Also check out the author's website for her other fairy tale related books.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Strange Brew

If you thought Strange Brew, starring and directed by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, was just a buddy comedy about two Canadian brothers in an endless quest for beer and donuts--you weren't paying attention. Because it's also HAMLET.

My husband picked this up and watched me watching with eager anticipation, until the first mention of Elsinore Castle made me say, "How Gothic." Then he burst out: "IT'S HAMLET!"

And it's true. This beer comedy is a ... subtle?... retelling of the Bard's story. Pam, heiress to Elsinore Brewery, is trying to figure out how to run a business and to figure out what REALLY happened to her father, when along come two bumbling hosers to help her out and, if they can manage it, get some free beer. Looney and with just a little bit of a love story, this is one of the few comedies that is still funny years after its release. And we know that's because they picked a good story as their basis, right?

If you haven't seen this, and you like Shakespeare adaptations, check out this forerunner of all the other strange buddy comedies.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre: Rapunzel

Let me follow up yesterday's Tangled post with a much older, more traditional retelling of Rapunzel.

The Faerie Tale Theatre version follows the original story quite closely, from the stolen veggies to the restorative tears in the desert. This is also one of the first ones where I noticed that Rapunzel's parents were played by the same actors that played Rapunzel and her prince--although I may not have noticed that the first time I watched it, as that was long, long ago....

This is a pretty good story, for Faerie Tale Theatre, because it's not too dependent on special effects, and it's an involved, longer story. The pacing is much better in this one than some of the others I've commented on. Still, it's not my favorite, partly because it feels more like the Shelley Duvall's Shelley Duvall theatre and partly because it fails to address any of the problems with the original story. (Not, as I've said, that we should change things JUST because they bother us....)

Even so, if you haven't seen it, and you like Rapunzel, you should watch this one--particularly if you're a big fan of the early versions of the story.

(I've chosen to review all the Faerie Tale Theatre episodes separately because they vary so much and cover so many different stories. Also: reading/watching the material for this blog takes a lot of time! I hope you enjoy the slightly more in depth reviews this way.)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Disney's Tangled

Oh my goodness, so much hair.

I didn't get to see Tangled on opening weekend, due to my penchant for avoiding opening weekends at all costs. However, I did get over to watch it the other evening, and I have to say, I really enjoyed it.

There's a lot I could say about Disney and Disney versions, but you can find that all over the internet, so I'll just say: My husband said this is his favorite Disney fairy tale. Now I shall return to looking at this in terms of fairy tale adaptations, because, well, that's the point, isn't it?

I liked the element of the flower (although you'd think they might have just called it Rapunzel, otherwise what's the point of her being named Rapunzel?) and having the witch straight-up kidnap the baby. The deal the father makes in the traditional story has always bothered me, and while I'm not saying we should take out everything that ever bothers us in a story, the reasoning here worked for me.

I was impressed that Rapunzel wasn't as much of a "I'm feisty! That makes me original and well rounded!" character as she appeared in the previews. I LOVED the bit where she goes back and forth feeling guilty and exhilarated about leaving the tower.

Overall, I would say this is one of Disney's better adaptations, and I am obviously okay with retellings/rewritings, or we wouldn't be here, so I can't hold their modifications against them. There is some beautiful art involved in this movie, too. Whether you catch it in theaters or wait to watch it at home, I think that you'll like this version of the story.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Thirteenth Princess by Diane Zahler

The Thirteenth Princess by Diane Zahler is a variant of The Twelve Dancing Princesses in which Zita is the thirteenth born daughter of a king who longed for a son to be his heir. All the other princesses are cosseted in a lofty tower room, but Zita is sent at her birth down to the servants quarters where she lives until she finds out that she, too, is a princess.

I found this book to push my suspension of disbelief, as Zita is acknowledged as a princess by everyone in the castle, but still banished from her family. It's a strange dynamic and I'm not sure the story is successful at conveying it. However, the strong narrative pulled me through the book, and hints of other tales and shades of George McDonald--such as a godmother-esque witch in the woods, whom only the children can find--gave the text enough richness that overall it worked.

I would recommend this mostly to younger readers or those who particularly enjoy new versions of The Twelve Dancing Princesses.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Mermaid's Madness by Jim C. Hines

If this cover art doesn't make you want to pick this book up and read it, well, I don't know what would work for you. And Jim Hines has managed, with exceptional talent, to write a sequel that is as good as the first book in his Princess series.

Following the further adventures of Danielle, Talia, and Snow (respectively Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White), the story picks up as Danielle sails with her mother-in-law on a diplomatic mission to the mermaids--which goes terribly wrong, terribly quickly. The three princesses must race to save their Queen and Kingdom in this fast-paced, exciting sequel to The Stepsister Scheme.

The series is one of the best I've seen at genuinely updating the sensibilities of the characters, making them three-dimensional and feminist, while retaining the fun and whimsy--as well as the darker sides--of the fairy tales they draw from.

I am mentioning this book in its own entry because, well, it's awesome in its own right. I suggest reading the books in order, as there is a lot of character and plot development that's consistent through the series. Hines follows this one up with Red Hood's Revenge, and I am looking forward to the fourth installment, The Snow Queen's Shadow, which should be released next July.

Also be sure to check out Hines's blog for more information on upcoming books and a number of other cool topics.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Glasgow Fairytale by Alastair D. McIver

I am especially excited to tell you about this book because the author, Mr. McIver, has been a long-time member of my fairy tale community on LiveJournal. We've had quite a few talks about fairy tales and folklore, so I am just thrilled to see his storytelling in action here.

The story starts as several fairytales begin to act upon one another, with often hilarious results--as, for example, Reggie King decides to take out Snowy White (in a nicely done gender reversal) to be the bonniest man in Glasgow--and he hires none other than Ella McCinders to get the job done.

I won't give too much away, but I will tell you that this is one of the funniest adaptations I've ever read, mixing stories and rearranging the elements to fit McIver's own Glasgow. I giggled out loud frequently, and the Cinderella ball scene is my favorite every Cinderella dance. Also: Best Frog Prince Ever.

McIver's penchant for telling stories is apparent in his prose, which is excellent for reading aloud. As an American reader, I had to sometimes slow down to read the Scottish dialect, but even then it wasn't so heavy that I had trouble understanding it.

This is only available in America through intermediates on marketplace, but it IS available, and for an excellent price for a trade paperback. I highly recommend this for anyone who likes mixed up fairy tales and funny retellings. I hope you'll check it out!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Snow White: A Tale of Terror

If you ever wanted to see Sigourney Weaver get her CrAzY on, this is the movie for you. Snow White: A Tale of Terror is a pretty straightforward retelling, but with the creep-factor ratcheted up quite a bit from Disney.

It's not one of those retellings where they tried to explain a bunch of stuff. Things that don't make sense in the original story still don't make sense--that is to say, although the mirror gets briefly mentioned as being from the stepmother's mother. Why or how it's magical is still a mystery. In that sense it's very much like its fairy tale roots--the story is the important thing, the interactions of the characters, not the explanations. Although I like that angle in a lot of other retellings, this one works just as well without them.

There are a few twists, e.g. gold miners instead of dwarves, and instead of a prince, it's one of the miners (the hot one) who is the hero. Even with his help, Snow White (Lilli) manages to rescue herself in the final confrontation with her stepmother, which I appreciate in a world oversteeped with heroes rescuing princesses.

This movie holds a special place in my heart, as I believe it was one of the first non-Disney movie retellings I ever saw, and it may have been one of those little junctions in my life where I realized how much you could do with a basic fairy tale storyline.

And there is some wicked good chemistry thrown in between Lilli and her favorite miner.

Definitely one to check out if you haven't seen it!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Found the Book of Lost Things!

Excuse me for the delay, I've been letting the blog run on autopilot while I dealt with some IRL things.

But now, we have a winner!

onceuponahereandnow, my husband drew your number out of the hat. :) Email me at richlayers at yahoo dot com, send me your address, and I'll send you a copy of The Book of Lost Things.

And in the meantime, happy holidays to everyone else!


The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm

The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, VHS cover

This remnant from my childhood came up recently as I was going through the old VHS tapes for the ones that simply had to be updated to a new medium. You may recall the 2005 film The Brothers Grimm going by and throwing historic relevancy to the wind (although it had its own charms). This film, while whimsical, not to mention musical, does at least try to stick to some various historical details.

A few, anyway.

The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm

The musical tells the story of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, both of whom are determined to be taken seriously as writers. As I recall, Wilhelm is insistent that they finish the autobiographies they've been commissioned, while Jacob is easily diverted by folklore. In the end they see that both are important to the history of their people and work together the rest of their lives writing stuff down. A happy ending for all!

Also included within the frame of the Brothers' story are three fairy tales: The Dancing Princess, The Cobbler and the Elves, and The Singing Bone. These were always my favorite parts of the movie as I was growing up.

The only one I could find an exerpt from:

The VHS is now available used on, while the DVD appears to be catalogued but isn't available. You can sign up to be notified of availability, though, so I guess that's something!

If you haven't seen this, and you're part of this community, I'd recommend it just for the fairy tale shorts. Or just for the Brothers Grimm. Which means you've all now got a double recommendation. So, go, I bid thee, and inter-library loan.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Robinson Crusoe and the Ethnic Sidekick by Frederick Zackel

Today's recommendation is a little bit different, but it's a piece of writing I found quite impressive. This is an article from Bright Lights Film Journal, available online for free. It's a longer read, but I think you'll find it worthwhile if you're interested in modern mythologies.

I've certainly spent a lot of time thinking about what more recent (as in, can be traced to an author) stories can be considered myths and fairy tales, and I would have to say, Robinson Crusoe qualifies, from the number of intentional remakes to the way it seems to have sunk into our societal psyche, as argued by Mr. Zackel.

With a thorough analysis of the myth's predominance in today's media, as well as details about some of the counter-myths written as a response (A Christmas Carol, Huckleberry Finn), this article is thought-provoking, both in regards to our social conscience and in regards to our mythological studies. It is a little outdated, but only in a way that gives me hope that we're improving. :)

And it's free!


Friday, December 3, 2010

Wizard of Oz Week: Robert Sabuda's Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Certainly one of the most abridged versions I've ever come across, Sabuda's commemorative pop-up, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, is also one of the most fantastical and fascinating.

With intricate and detailed pop-ups, Sabuda tells the story of Dorothy's journey through Oz, starting with a full tornado.

The twister actually twists as you open the page, to give you an idea of the complexity and detail.

Also, when you get to the Emerald City, you get your own green glasses:

I've become a reborn pop-up fan through Sabuda's work, which includes retellings of several of my favorite fairy tales. His balloon page, in this Oz book, though, remains one of my favorites. This is an excellent one for collectors (although I'm not sure I'd want to let the kids tear it up...).

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Reminder: Book of Lost Things Giveaway!

Don't forget! Tomorrow is the drawing for The Book of Lost Things giveaway. Be sure to go to the ORIGINAL POST to enter!

  • 1 entry for a link to Fairy Layers from your blog
  • 1 entry for a link to Fairy Layers from your twitter

Wizard of Oz Week: Wicked by Gregory Maguire

I can hardly spend a week talking about Wizard of Oz retellings and not mention Wicked.

Both a bestselling novel and a Broadway hit, I'll probably meander back and forth through both, but I'll try to keep them distinct for the purposes of this blog.

So let's see--the book. The book is extremely dense and lyrically heavy. It's one of the harder things I've read. I don't come across many books any more that send me to the dictionary, much less more than once. And yet every time I looked up a word, it turned out to be the perfect word. I had to take a break in the middle of the book because my brain just needed to process for a while. (I think I read a couple picture books and then went back to it.)

The flow of the novel slows considerably at some points, and then picks up again so that I found myself whipping through pages, and then setting the book down to digest what I had read. It's an incredibly complex view of Oz, but it felt true in that: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was a child's view of the world, as Dorothy wanders through a strange and magical (but, notably, uncivilized) land, running into characters who are caught up in the adult realities of a strange, magical, and uncivilized land. It's no surprise that a child would pick up on the danger of the land without understanding the political complexities.

Therefore, in Wicked, all those complicated adult interactions and motives and understandings are brought into the light, and Oz is still Dorothy's Oz, but with all the detail of differing factions and prejudice and policy.

I really did love it, in the end. And it's not until the last quarter of the book that Dorothy comes into the story at all, but I love. love. LOVE her scene with Elphaba.

But if you picked up the book and absolutely couldn't get through it--you still might love the musical!

I think the musical goes very well as a companion to the Judy Garland musical, as much as Wicked the book goes with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz book. The musical Wicked ties the ends together much more neatly, slaps a (not unearned) happy ending into place, and alludes both musically and thematically to the 1939 musical. Characters are conglomerated for an altogether tidier story (such as Boq being the Tin Woodman, separate characters in both books).

The musical focuses much more on Elphaba's friendship with Glinda (in the book they only see each other once in the second half of the story), with more emphasis on the love triangle, which is only mentioned as a possibility in the book.

For all their differences--and I am usually one to gripe about changes in adaptations--I love both versions. There is nothing careless in the Musical treatment; the changes feel justified. The book is like a complex person, or a country: nothing simple, but absolutely worthwhile.

I hope you'll take a chance on both of them.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wizard of Oz Week: Tin Man

Tin Man is the SyFy (haha, that still cracks me up) retelling of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It's quite different, and yet the bare bones of the story are still there, for the most part. The characters transpose into their new parts in interesting ways.

My husband got really impatient with D.G. (Zooey Deschanel), I think mostly because we were watching a lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer at the time, and he kept expecting the butt-kicking to commence. (I wonder if he'd like it more now that we're Doctor Who marathoning?) The pacing is definitely slower in this one, as D.G.'s yellow brick quest is drawn out into 3 hour-and-a-half parts.

Overall, I enjoyed the reinterpretation, and learning the truth about the Wicked Witch in the slow reveal. It's worth checking out if you're an Oz fan, although I'd recommend blanking your expectations-slate as much as possible.

You can play around in the SyFy Channel's special feature zone if you're interested.