Friday, January 16, 2009

The Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum (illustrated by Graham Rawle)

When I saw this new version of The Wizard of Oz illustrated by Graham Rawle, I knew I had to give it a go. The cover is so deliciously warped, I just couldn't help myself. You guessed it, Dorothy looks like a dime store doll, and I never really figured out why Toto is on a dolly, but it's cute. It's weird. It matches up nicely with Baum's twisted vision. Likewise, the other main characters are figurines that look very crafty and handmade. The Lion was my favorite, as always.

Honestly, I've never been a fan of the book. Oz is one of those rare cases wherein the movie far exceeds the book in terms of pop culture status and charm, but it's still kind of a trippy ride to read it over on occasion. While we're probably all accustomed to images from the film or cutesy comic illustrations, Rawle--a writer and collage artist--puts a new face on the tale with a mixture of dolls, figurines, found objects, drawings, and photographs all smashed together to breathe life into the beloved Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion. Not to mention Aunt Em, Uncle Henry, and the various witches, Munchkins, Winkies, and others. Those flying monkeys were a hoot!

One of Rawle's tendencies is to use photographs of real people's heads and put them atop the bodies of dolls or figurines. It creates a weird sense of unreality, and it's almost disturbing; perfect for such a wacky tale of fantasy and wonder. While the illustrations were great and added a nice effect to the story, I can't say they're terribly daring. That is, they didn't add any extra meaning to the story for me. They were generally pretty straightforward, literal translations of the written words. Given such a unique style, I wanted Rawle to take more chances in interpreting the story through images. I wanted the images to add an extra layer of meaning to the written text. As it is, they're just pretty.

If you're a Wizard of Oz lover, this edition is a must-have. In addition to the sweeping color illustrations, the actual layout of the book is gorgeous, and it's a hefty, quality hardcover. If you're a casual Oz lover, grab it from the library.

I'll count this book as my first for the Year of Reading Dangerously. Rawle definitely takes some nice chances with his illustrations, even if they're not always successful.


  1. There's only so much an illustrator can do, and livening up an otherwise annoying book isn't on the list.

  2. Check out my interview with Graham at

  3. Wow, I have no idea what to make of Dorothy and her freakishly large head!

    The Tin Woodsman is my favorite.

  4. This looks really cool! I think I might have to check it out!

  5. either freaky or freaking great, i can't tell which

  6. I adore The Wizard of Oz, and I'm definitely going to purchase this book -- it looks really cool! I'm going to read the whole Oz series over the summer.

  7. What an interesting book! I remember liking Ox, and the illustrations look... off beat. Thanks for the rec!

  8. Ack! No! Can't do it. Foresee nightmares almost as bad as after I saw Return to Oz in the theatre. (I still shudder when people even mention Jack Pumpkinhead...)

  9. This looks awesome! It's going right on my wishlist :)
    It reminds me of a movie I love called Alice (directed by Jan Svankmajer) It is a retelling of Alice In Wonderland filmed using a mix of live and stop action. Very dark and slightly bizarre.

  10. That is seriously creepy, and I have a friend who is obsessed with Oz and would love it. :)

    In other news, I have an award for you!

  11. I lean toward the "creeped out" side on this one. I think you can have it. :)

  12. Stu, amen to that!

    Blair, thanks for the link!

    Dennis, that's a big cranium isn't it?!

    I hope you enjoy it, Kailana!

    It was a fun change, Michelle.

    LOL, Coffee! It's for you to decide.

    Jess, e-mail me and I'll send you my copy!

    No problem, Kim!

    LOL, Sassy, I think you're right. The freakier illustrations are quite weird.

    Joanne, the movie sounds fantastic! I'm a huge fan of stop action.

    Thank you, Jessi!!!

    Ha, Nancy!


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