Friday, April 14, 2006

Must Reads for 2005

One of the truly great Oz books was written by one of the MGM film's original Munchkins. Anticipation was high and this book did not disappoint. With the assistance of Lt. Daniel Kinske, Munchkin Coroner Meinhardt Raabe has proven himself an engaging raconteur. They have organized Mr. Raabe's memories into a charming novel that belongs on every Oz enthusiast's bookshelf. Mr. Raabe regularly appears at Oz events, but for those of us that are unable to attend, this book is the next best thing.

Mr. Raabe's real life is just as colorful as his adventures in Oz. He vividly describes the challenges he faced as a little person and he more than rose to every occasion with grace and good humor. His fond reminisces of Judy Garland are very touching and a joy for Judy Garland fans to read.

The book is lavishly illustrated with never before seen photos and original art work by many of the leading modern artists.

As far as Munchkin fandom goes I am very embarrassed to admit that I'm a late bloomer. For the most part, Oz for me was Judy Garland and Toto. This book sure helped to change my attitude. I am very grateful to Lt. Daniel Kinske and to Meinhardt Raabe for sharing his memories, wit, and heart with all of us. Mr Raabe himself is a treasure and this book is a gem that outshines any ruby or emerald.

I think the other big book for 2005 was The Grimmerie by David Cote. Named for a book of spells, it is a nice history of the Broadway Musical Wicked that's been casting it's own spell on sell out crowds for almost 3 years now. It's a great keepsake for fans of the musical, but be aware this book is full of spoilers. If you haven't seen the show yet and want to be surprised, then The Grimmerie may not be for you just yet.

I got a sense that the author of this book and the creators of the musical were sensitive to and respect the origins of Oz. The Oz timeline was a nice inclusion and I thought the scattering of illustrations from the original Oz books throughout the Grimmerie was a nice touch as well.
Hopefully it will inspire more people to explore the world L. Frank Baum created.

My biggest disappointment was that few photos were original to this book. Most have already been seen in the souvenir program, the cd booklet, and the official website. But I found the section where the actors give their perspectives on the characters they play very enlightening.

Overall, the Grimmerie is an enjoyable tome delving into the creation of Wicked the musical.