The Wizard of the Emerald City, by Alexander Volkov – Well, when I say it’s by Volkov, it’s actually mostly by L. Frank Baum. In the late thirties, this Soviet author translated and revised The Wonderful Wizard of Oz for a Russian audience, and then wrote his own sequels. Changes made to the story of Wizard include that Ellie (Dorothy)’s parents are still alive, Totoshka (Toto) can talk from when he first arrives in Magic Land, the Gillikin and Winkie colors are switched for some reason, there’s an encounter with a flesh-eating ogre, the Kalidahs have become saber-toothed tigers, and the fighting trees are China Country have been replaced with a flooding river. Also, since Volkov had the benefit of hindsight in writing his edited version, he clears up a few things that Baum had left unexplained, making it a somewhat neater read. It’s interesting to see how Volkov changed the story, although I’m not quite sure how these changes would have made it more palatable to a Russian audience. (You know the Russians and their obsession with saber-toothed tigers, right? No? :P)
The Red Pyramid, by Rick Riordan – In the Percy Jackson series, Riordan brought Greek mythology into the modern world. This book is the beginning of the Kane Chronicles, which do the same basic thing for Egyptian mythology. Riordan has done sufficient work to make sure it isn’t simply a rehash of his former series with different gods, however. This story focuses on Carter and Sadie Kane, siblings with the blood of the pharaohs in their veins. They both serve as narrators, giving their own voices to the events, and bickering with each other as siblings are wont to do. While Percy and his friends had Camp Half-Blood to train them, the Kanes quickly run afoul of the Egyptian world’s equivalent, the House of Life. The House feels that they need to keep the gods sealed away, while the Kanes find that they need to work together in order to defeat the rise of chaos. Osiris, Isis, Horus, Set, Bast, Nut, Thoth, and Anubis are among the deities who put in appearances. I’m definitely looking forward to the sequels.