November 21, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Media Mania: Journeying to Oz—The New Film and a Whirlwind of Portal Fiction for Teens

Marvelous OzWalt Disney’s Oz the Great and Powerful (PG) tornadoes into theaters on March 8, in traditional, 3D, and IMAX 3D formats. Directed by Sam Raimi, the film envisions the origins of L. Frank Baum’s iconic character, first introduced in 1900 in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and is set before the classic 1939 MGM movie starring Judy Garland. Oscar Diggs (James Franco), an unscrupulous two-bit circus magician, is swept away via hot-air balloon to the Land of Oz. Handsome and charismatic, the smooth-talking flimflammer gamely steps into the role of a long-prophesized wizard, hoping to make his dreams of fame and fortune come true. However, he encounters three resident witches—Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz), and Glinda (Michelle Williams)—who suspect him of being a fraud, and soon becomes embroiled in the troubles facing this fantastical realm. Oscar must rely upon both his magical arts and his ingenuity to fill the shoes of the great and powerful Wizard of Oz and save the day, while also deciding if he’ll transform himself into a better man. Teens can visit the movie’s website to browse videos and photos, play games, and access downloads.

Tarry a While in Oz

Art of OzGrant Curtis’s The Art of Oz the Great and Powerful (Disney Editions, 2013; Gr 6 Up) sets the scene by introducing the life and work of Baum in a chapter sprinkled with quotes from the Oz series, archival photos, and W. W. Denslow’s original illustrations. Lengthy sections replete with commentary from the film’s creators delve into the details of the production design, costumes and characters, makeup, visual effects, and casting. The author makes clear how these various elements interrelate and contribute to the overall storytelling, creating a production that strives to remain true to the source material while fashioning a unique and fresh interpretation and ultimately answering screenwriter Mitchell Kapner’s burning question: “How did the Wizard become the Wizard?” The behind-the-scenes tidbits are fascinating and the pages are packed with stunning large-size images including photos (film stills, candid close-ups, and on-set shots), concept designs, and production paintings (many stretching across double spreads). A fun-to-browse volume for film fans and Oz lovers.

The Marvelous OzMovie viewers may want to read or re-visit the original work that inspired this prequel film and perhaps continue on with the series. If you need to spiff up your holdings, consider new reissues of Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz (both Disney, 2013). These handsome volumes feature cloth spines, elegant gold leafing, and cover images from the original illustrators, Denslow for the first title and John R. Neill for the second, both colorfully repainted. Introductions by the film’s Oz, James Franco, and screenwriter Mitchell Kapner appear respectively, and a full-color movie concept painting graces each back cover.

Dorothy in OzProvide your readers with a fresh take on Baum’s beloved realm by recommending an enchanting series of graphic novel adaptations penned by Eisner Award-winner Eric Shanower and illustrated by Skottie Young. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (2009), The Marvelous Land of Oz (2009), Ozma of Oz (2011), and Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz (2013, all Marvel; Gr 5-9) are currently available, with more entries to come. Brimming with madcap charm, these fast-reading retellings pair well-written scripts with exuberant, bright-hued artwork to capture the whimsy and adventure of the original tales. Baum’s magical places and quirky characters explode off the pages.

Step Through a Portal to Another World

Like Oscar Diggs, these books feature protagonists who are transported from our own familiar world to another realm, where they encounter exhilarating adventures and come face to face with conundrums that challenge their perceptions and abilities, uncover hidden aptitudes, and help them learn about themselves.

Travel to Fantastical Lands

Girl Who Circumnavigated FairylandBored with her ho-hum life in WWII-era Omaha, 12-year-old September readily accepts an invitation from the Green Wind to visit Fairyland, and climbs out of the kitchen window and onto the back of a flying leopard. Her expectations for a grand adventure are soundly met, as she makes new friends (including an amiable Wyverary—offspring of a dragon and a library); takes on the evil Marquess (a fickle foot-stamping girl who rules over everyone with tyrannical cruelty); and ultimately discovers the courage and can-do attitude needed to set things right. Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (2011; Gr 5-9) mixes once-upon-a-time magic with droll wisdom, and Ana Juan’s playful sketches depict the nonstop action with fairytale flair. The book’s vibrant storytelling, densely layered wonders, and astute epiphanies will appeal to a broad age range. Look for the sequel, The Girl Who Fell beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There (2012, both Feiwel & Friends).

AbaratLike September, Candy Quackenbush abandons an unhappy existence in Chickentown, MN, when she passes through a derelict lighthouse and leaps into the Abarat (HarperCollins, 2002; Gr 7 Up), a mystical archipelago consisting of 25 islands, one for each hour of the day, plus the mysterious Twenty-Fifth Hour. Suddenly, Candy finds herself caught in a power struggle between the frightening magic-using Lord of Midnight and the callus technology-obsessed leader of Commexo City. Navigating one tumultuous adventure after another, Candy is gradually and convincingly transformed from insecure school girl to resourceful heroin ready to embrace her destiny. Clive Barker’s lyrical writing and atmospheric full-color paintings introduce a spectacularly detailed and gloriously imagined realm peopled with an assortment of breathtakingly bizarre creatures—villains and allies alike. Coming-of-age themes as well as thought-provoking reflections on the real world are interwoven with intricate plot twists, political intrigue, and a cavalcade of close scrapes. The first in a series, this tale will appeal to readers who enjoy digging into epic-scale fantasy.

Dubbed a “late bloomer” by his mother, Perry Eckert is sent off to summer camp to interact with other kids and discourage his obsession with the role-playing game, Creatures and Caverns. However, when The Other Normalsthe 15-year-old follows what looks to be a real-life character from the game into the woods, fantasy suddenly becomes reality. Following the instructions of the mysterious Mortin Enaw (a red man with a tail), the teen travels (rather creatively, by simultaneously touching a car battery and a mushroom) to the world of The Other Normals (Balzer & Bray, 2012; Gr 7-10), a place inhabited by humanoids and fantastical hybrid creatures. Here, he discovers that the resident princess has been captured by “a horrific mutant beast… with a hundred ten eyes and poison fangs” and can only be saved by Perry’s ability to obtain his first kiss. Many entertaining plot twists and humorous moments later, Perry, buoyed up by the attention of a smart and attractive local girl named Ada, begins to realize that in this world, he’s more Galahad than geek, and that his newfound heroism just might be transferrable. Revved up with RPG terminology and a spot-on dweeb perspective (and lots of adolescent testosterone), Ned Vizzini’s lively first-person narration is antic-filled and laugh-out-loud funny.

Go Down the Rabbit Hole with Alice

SplinteredA. G. Howard’s Splintered (Amulet, 2013; Gr 9 Up) shakes up the traditional Lewis Carroll tale with a contemporary skater-girl heroine, loads of eerie imagery and nightmarish happenings, and a fervent dose of romance. Alyssa, 16, the great-great-great-granddaughter of the famous Alice Liddell, has the perplexing ability to hear the thoughts of plants and insects. Her family has long been plagued by mental illness, and she fears that she will end up institutionalized like her mother. However, things change when she’s visited by Morpheus, the dangerously magnetic and darkly handsome netherling who has long haunted her dreams. He invites her to step through a mirror into Wonderland, set right the wrongs that were perpetuated long ago by Alice, and end the family curse of madness. Filled with much more menacing versions of Carroll’s well-known characters, this realm is frightening and volatile, and Alyssa can’t figure out whom to trust. Though she has inadvertently brought along her overprotective best friend Jeb (hottie extraordinaire and her secret crush), she soon discovers that she must rely upon her own abilities and take charge of her fate. Set against a backdrop that’s at once familiar and startlingly original, Alyssa’s transformation is mesmerizing and empowering. Satisfyingly sensual, delightfully dark, and absolutely riveting.

Alice in the CountryIn QuinRose’s Alice in the Country of Hearts (Yen Pr., 2012; Gr 9 Up), a manga based on a Japanese video game and illustrated by Soumei Hoshino, the dozing protagonist is abducted from her garden by a handsome young man with rabbit ears. Arriving in Wonderland, the somewhat-dazed but gutsy-as-ever Alice soon discovers that she has landed in the middle of a bewildering “game” with undisclosed rules. Meanwhile, hunky humanoid versions of the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, and other Wonderland denizens vie for her affections. Simultaneously intriguing and inscrutable, alluring and alarming, they tote firearms, which they use with ruthless abandon, and are engaged in a violent mafia-style turf war. It’s a rollercoaster ride of events and emotions as Alice tries to sort through the many mysteries of Wonderland and find her way home. The costumes and settings have a funky tea-party-chic meets steampunk aura, and the script is wryly funny, seductively sinister, and a tad risqué. This manga series is presented in three omnibus editions, and spinoffs are also available.

Cruise the Multiverse

Everett’s world is thrown off kilter when his physicist father, Tejendra Singh, is kidnapped right before his eyes from a London street. The 14-year-old soon receives an email from his dad containing a sophisticated computer program, dubbed the Infundibulum, and employs his own math genius to unlock Planesrunnerits secrets and create a map of an infinite number of parallel earths. It’s all been kept hush hush, but Everett finds a way to locate the Heisenberg Gate that Tejendra helped to build and follow his father’s trail to an alternate earth—a steampunk-style England that runs on electricity. However, intimidating bad guys from a plentitude of universes are hot on his heels and looking to grab the Infundibulum for themselves. Everett’s luck changes when he finds an ally in the street-savvy Sen Sixsmyth, an Airish girl and adopted daughter of the captain of the magnificent dirigible Everness. Smart and infinitely readable, Ian McDonald’s Planesrunner (2011; Gr 7 Up) is set in an elaborately imagined universe and stars a cast of compelling and unique characters. Cutting-edge scientific concepts are blithely blended with the heart-pumping action. Embellished with tech-speak, the exotic flavors of Punjabi cuisine, and bantering dialogue in a secret Airish language (glossary appended), the narrative unfurls with both humor and honest emotion. The world-spanning adventures continue with Be My Enemy (2012, both Pyr).

GatewayAfter purchasing a mysterious black jade ring from an outdoor vendor, a Chinese-American high school student walks through the St. Louis Arch and is astounded to discover that she has passed through a Gateway (Viking, 2009; Gr 7-10) to another “iteration” of her world. In this alternate universe, the majority of people in the area as well as members of the ruling class are Han (Chinese), with other races making up the poor lower classes. Confused and frightened, Daiyu is greeted by a handsome young man, a cangbai (Causasian) named Kalen, and taken to safety. She learns that she has been brought to this world to accomplish an important mission: she must send the Prime Minister—a dimension-spanning traveler who has wormed his way into power and is determined to release havoc on Jia—back to his own iteration. However, Chenglei is disconcertingly charismatic, and Diayu is unsure if what she’s been told is true. And the prospect of her return trip home becomes more complicated when she finds herself falling for Kalen. Sharon Shinn’s fast-reading fantasy is propelled by political intrigue and heart-soaring romance.

Through to YouIn Emily Hainsworth’s Through to You (Balzer & Bray, 2012; Gr 9 Up), 17-year-old Camden Pike is devastated by the death of his girlfriend, Viv, in a recent car wreck, and feels as though it should have been him. Emotionally unstable, he can’t believe his eyes when he meets a shadowy apparition during a visit to Viv’s memorial. Nina, in fact, isn’t a ghost, but a girl who has traveled through a gateway at the site of the accident from a parallel world, one in which Cam is dead and Viv is still alive. Just how far will Cam go to be reunited with his beloved? However, things are not quite the same in Nina’s realm, and as dark secrets are revealed, he must make a heartrending choice before the door is closed forever. Cam’s first-person narrative believably portrays his emotional melt-down and poignant revelations (and is strewn with strong language and mature situations). Featuring an inter-dimensional love triangle and lots of heady romance, this thriller will keep readers swiftly turning pages.

Publication Information

CURTIS, Grant. The Art of Oz the Great and Powerful. photos. by Merie Wallace. Disney Editions. pap. $40. ISBN 978-142317091-4.

BAUM, L. Frank. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. ISBN 978-142317126-3.

_____. The Marvelous Land of Oz. ISBN 978-142317127-0.

Ea vol: Disney. 2013. Tr $16.99.

SHANOWER, Eric. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. 2009. Tr ISBN 978-07851-2921-9; pap. ISBN 978-07851-4590-5.

_____. The Marvelous Land of Oz. 2010.  Tr ISBN 978-07851-4028-3; pap. ISBN  978-07851-4087-0.

_____. Ozma of Oz. 2011. Tr ISBN 978-0785142478; pap. ISBN  978-


_____. Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. 2013. pap. ISBN 978-0-7851-5555-3.

Ea vol: illus. by Skottie Young. Marvel. Tr $29.99; pap. $19.99.

VALENTE, Catherynne M. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. illus. by Ana Juan. 2011. Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-312-64961-6; pap. $6.99. ISBN 9781250010193; ebook $6.99. ISBN 9781429923132.

BARKER, Clive. Abarat. illus. by author. HarperCollins. 2002. pap. $8.99. ISBN 9780060596378; ebook $8.99. ISBN 9780062044013.

VIZZINI, Ned. The Other Normals. Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins. 2012. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-207990-9; ebook $11.99. ISBN 978-0-06-207992-3.

HOWARD, A. G. Splintered. Amulet/Abrams. 2013. Tr $17.95. ISBN 978-1-4197-0428-4.

QUINROSE. Alice in the Country of Hearts. Vol. 1. ISBN 978-0-316-21269-4.

_____. Alice in the Country of Hearts. Vol. 2. ISBN 978-0-316-21272-4.

_____. Alice in the Country of Hearts. Vol. 3. ISBN 978-0-316-21268-7.

Ea vol: illus. by Soumei Hoshino. Yen Pr. 2012. pap. $18.99.

MCDONALD, Ian. Planesrunner. Pyr/Prometheus. 2011. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-1-61614-541-5.

SHINN, Sharon. Gateway. Viking. 2009. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-670-01178-0; ebook $14.99. ISBN 9781101148839.

HAINSWORTH, Emily. Through to You. Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins. 2012. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-209419-3; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-0-06-209421-6.

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Joy Fleishhacker About Joy Fleishhacker

Joy Fleishhacker is a librarian, former SLJ staffer, and freelance editor and writer who works at the Pikes Peak Library District in southern Colorado.

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