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The old classic is reinvigorated with wonderful quirky illustrations
on 28 November 2008
This chunky hardback in an unusual squarish landscape format is a fascinating new take on this 100 year old classic. On pages that are wonderfully spacious, with quaint typographical touches throughout, L. Frank Baum's original text has inspired a collection of intricate, fascinating and colourful illustrations.
Rawle is a collage artist and here he has had the vision and dedication to create dozens and dozens of interesting imaginative pictures that are reminiscent of a by-gone era.
Rawle has not been distracted by the 1939 Judy Garland film (which included red shoes when Baum described silver) and has chosen rather to go right back to basics: it is great to see the exquisite attention to the original. For example when Baum describes the munchkins, he says they wore round hats that rose to a point a foot above their heads with little bells around the brims - and in this book, Rawle has made them just so.
Every picture is perfectly fashioned from real objects with a touch of genius helped, I am sure, with some 21st century image manipulation, and they are amazing.
The key characters appear to have been chosen carefully from a 1950s toy box, and I love the tin man, the cowardly lion and the flying monkeys.
Some of the collages are undoubtedly a little unsettling and the wicked witch with her telescope eye is rather scary, like the puppets in an old fashioned Punch and Judy. However, the pictures are certainly no more disturbing than those damaged toys in the nasty boy's room in Toy Story and most small children take those in their stride, and Rawle's characters are entirely appropriate to Baum's accimpanying narrative.
This is a striking, brave and rather kooky illustrative approach and it's a style that won't appeal to everyone. However the more you look, the more you notice the detail in the pictures and the exquisite care that has gone into creating this masterpiece. I particularly like the bead plants and a magnificent field of poppies with their centres fashioned from black fruit pastilles and headed pins.
It's a theatrical work and there's actually a two minute youtube clip (youtube com/watch?v=-rMmPlFWpNQ) about the extravagant effort that has gone into its construction that's well worth a view before you buy.
One to treasure and pass down the generations.