Let me first say that I am a Wizard of Oz nut. No, I'm not talking about the 1939 MGM Judy Garland film, which don't get me wrong, is a great film. I'm talking the Oz books by L. Frank Baum and those by Ruth Plumly Thompson and others who wrote about the traditional Land of Oz. However, I am not a purist. I enjoy movies and stories about Oz that are non-traditional. Phillip Jose Farmer's Barnstormer in Oz comes to mind. The miniseries Tin Man falls into this category. Imagine a Land of Oz that, while still filled with magic, lacks the Munchkins, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion. Instead you have The OZ (The Outer Zone) which was once ruled over by a beloved queen and her advisors. The marshals became known as Tin Men because of the tin stars they wore; their appearance is much like that of the modern western lawman with long brown trench coats wearing their guns at their sides.
Tin Man stars Zooey Deschanel as DG, the daughter of the beloved queen of The OZ sent to Kansas as a child to escape the clutches of the wicked queen who has taken over her kingdom. DG is raised on a farm by her aunt and uncle and she has no memory of The OZ. The wicked queen played by Kathleen Robertson has punished and/or exiled all who remained loyal to the former queen. She has removed half of the brain of the queen's main advisor, Glitch (Alan Cumming), leaving him an apparent idiot with a zipper down the center of his skull. DG is forced to return to The OZ and, in a journey that mirrors that of the traditional OZ stories, accumulate an entourage to help her defeat the wicked queen. One of these, of course, is a former marshal or Tin Man (Neil McDonough) of the title who has his own score to settle with the wicked queen.
Tin Man moves quickly with a number of twists and turns, some of them unexpected others telegraphed so you know they are coming. Those familiar with the Wizard of Oz will have no trouble figuring out which of the characters of The OZ correspond to those in the original Oz stories. Tin Man is a more adult story than the Oz books and movies, but still likely to be enjoyed by the whole family. If I had a complaint about the series it is that it is too short by about 45 seconds. It isn't that the ending was unsatisfactory, but I was expecting at least one more line. Everyone I've talked with who has watched this film mentally filled in this line or one like it and it really isn't needed to finish the series, but it would have been nice. (Sorry, you'll just have to figure out what the line is yourself as it would be a definite spoiler.)
Warning! Don't look for these books in the Young Adult section! These are "Adult Books," written for adults. Teens beware!
Ok, now that I've got your attention, let me also say that these books are just great for teens. So great, in fact, that the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) made an award just for them, and named them after a famous Baltimore librarian - sort of. Her name was Margaret A. Edwards, but her friends called her Alex, and that's where we get the Alex Awards. The 2012 Alex Awards feature ten books written for adults, but with special appeal to teens. Read more about What's an Alex Award?
"Incarceron" refers to a sentient prison that seemingly randomly punishes or ignores the hundreds of thousands of inmates contained in its vast walls. Nobody escapes (though many have tried to make their way Outside), and life is constant war -- nasty, brutish, and short. Both the prison and its inmates fight over scrap bits of technology to make their lives easier (or in the case of the prison, to make new prisoners out of the dead). Read more about Incarceron
When I picked up Shusterman's Bruiser, I expected to read a book about an angry kid who taunts and punches away his insecurities. While this book does deal with bullies, Brewster, the character of the title, is almost the opposite of a bully and a bit magical to boot. A hulking and shabbily dressed 16-year-old, Brewster is an outsider who people vote to be the Most Likely to Go to Jail, and generally treat as if he's not there. Which suits him fine, even if he's never stepped on an ant, because he takes on the physical and emotional pain of anyone he gets close to. Read more about Bruiser by Neal Shusterman
In 1984, Jumanji author Chris Van Allsburg compiled a storybook made up only of images with captions that hint at the fantastical and the scary, the strange and the beautiful. These mysterious illustrations were said to come straight from a man named Harris Burdick and, in the years since the pictures reached the public, the illustrations in The Mysteries of Harris Burdick have been used as a storytelling guide and even a jumping off point to help kids to their own fiction.
More recently, Van Allsburg hired a list of favorite children's authors to interpret the images from Van Allsburg's popular work. The result is The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, a 221 page compilation of short stories that flesh out the weird and fantastical elements present in Van Allsburg's original images. Authors ranging from Sherman Alexie to Stephen King, from Walter Dean Myers to Kate DiCamillo and many, many more all lend their voices to very different types of stories. The compilation also features an introduction from favorite, but oddball, author Lemony Snicket. Read more about The Chronicles of Harris Burdick