Tagged: the wizard of oz

Book Review: Glinda of Oz

p_glinda_of_ozxTitle: Glinda of Oz
Written by: L. Frank Baum
Series: Book 14 in the Oz series
Publisher: Reilly & Britton
Publish Date: 1920
Genre: Middle Grade Classic!
Pages: 279
Source: Borrowed from Library
Buy the Book: Glinda of Oz

Synopsis: Peace, prosperity, and happiness are the rule in the marvelous Land of Oz, but in a faraway corner of this magical domain dwell two tribes–the Flatheads and the Skeezers–who have declared war on each other. Determined to keep her subjects from fighting, the Ruler of Oz, Princess Ozma, along with her dearest friend, Princess Dorothy Gale (formerly of Kansas), embarks on a quest to restore peace.

When the Supreme Dictator of the Flatheads refuses to cooperate with Ozma, she and Dorothy seek out Queen Coo-ee-oh of the Skeezers, hoping she will be more reasonable. But the queen imprisons Ozma and Dorothy in her grand city and then traps them by submerging the whole city under water. Now it is up to Glinda the Good to save the day. She assembles all of Ozma’s counsellors–including such beloved Oz friends as the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, Cowardly Lion, Patchwork Girl, Shaggy Man, Tik-Tok, and Wizard of Oz–and they set out to rescue their friends. Will the magic powers of Glinda and the Wizard combined be enough to free Ozma and Dorothy?

A rousing tale of suspense, magic, and adventure, Glinda of Oz is the fourteenth and final Oz book by L. Frank Baum. It’s a grand conclusion to his chronicles of America’s favorite fairyland. (Via Amazon)

Brian’s Review: Well, as they say, everything comes to an end. Glinda of Oz is the fourteenth and final Oz book penned by L. Frank Baum, who passed away soon after the completion of this novel in 1919, and I found the reading of his last work an emotional experience. Emotional because I finally did what I set out to do twenty years ago, which is read all fourteen Oz books back to back, and emotional because these were the last words Baum ever put to paper. I haven’t loved, or even liked, some of these books, so I was wary of the last one being a disappointment; I knew, however, within the first few chapters that this was easily going to be one of the better Oz sequels.

One of the most heartbreaking elements about the book is the opening To Our Readers, which up until this book was always a fun little letter written by Baum about what inspired the newest installment of his series. In Glinda of Oz, it’s a downbeat, impersonal note from The Publishers essentially apologizing about the fact that Baum has passed away and is to write no more. The reading becomes more uplifting and engaging, however, once the words of Chapter One begin. Glinda of Oz is one of Baum’s most fast-paced and entertaining stories, one that gets almost every major character from the previous books his or her own storyline or memorable scene. Unlike some of the books that follow new or minor characters we don’t care about, Glinda of Oz follows Ozma and Dorothy on a perilous journey toward the outskirts of Oz, and Glinda, who gets the title this time out, plays a major part, too, and is never relegated to the sidelines.

As always, Baum’s descriptions are superb and delightful, especially in the way he describes the Flatheads, new villains introduced in this piece. I loved over fourteen books his imagination never ceased, and there is the feeling when the last page of this one is closed that he probably had another fifty Oz books in him, if he had lived forever. (Of course, many more Oz books were written after this. Ruth Plumly Thompson wrote 19 more, and others wrote an additional ten or more over the years. While I’m sure there is entertainment value to be found in these, my journey in the Oz series stops here.) While I couldn’t decipher anywhere in the text that Baum knew this was to be his last book, there is one scene in Chapter 14 called Ozma’s Counsellors that puts almost every character we’ve come to meet over fourteen books at a big roundtable, and it is in this chapter that Baum gives the characters their final bow. Everyone from the Tin Woodman, to the Patchwork Girl, to Tik-Tok, to Jack Pumpkinhead. It’s a beautiful chapter that gives the reader one last good-bye to these beloved characters. On the other hand, strangely enough, the book has kind of a non-ending, one that pays more attention to the restoration of the Flathead characters and that doesn’t give any proper closure to the series as a whole. Maybe he had no idea this was it. Either way, I enjoyed this book immensely, and I am sad my journey is over.

Now that I’ve finished, I thought I would rank the Oz series, from worst to best. Here goes…

14. Rinkitink of Oz

13. The Scarecrow of Oz

12. Tik-Tok of Oz

11. The Road to Oz

10. The Patchwork Girl of Oz

9. The Magic of Oz

8. Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz

7. Glinda of Oz

6. The Marvelous Land of Oz

5. The Lost Princess of Oz

4. The Emerald City of Oz

3. The Tin Woodman of Oz

2. Ozma of Oz

1. The Wizard of Oz

If you love The Wizard of Oz and want to read more in the series, but don’t want to read every single installment, the sequels that get my highest recommendations are Ozma of Oz, Book 3; The Tin Woodman of Oz, Book 12; and The Emerald City of Oz, Book 6. These are the three that I loved. And what’s great about Baum’s series is that you don’t have to read the sequels in order to understand what’s going on. Dip into any story you want, and it can easily be read as a stand-alone. But if you want true enchantment, try one of those three titles. You won’t be disappointed!

Reading all of Baum’s Oz books these last fourteen months has been a wonderful journey, one that I’m very glad to have taken. As a writer myself, I learned from Baum how to write simple, imaginative descriptions for characters and how to keep readers turning the page. Mostly I learned how writing fantasy stories for children is absolutely a worthwhile venture to take on. There’s more to Oz than the 1939 movie, boy do I know that now, and I urge all of you to give one of these many joyous books a try. Long live Oz!

Book Review: The Tin Woodman of Oz

the-tin-woodman-of-ozTitle: The Tin Woodman of Oz
Written by: L. Frank Baum
Series: Book 12 in the Oz series
Publisher: Reilly & Britton
Publish Date: 1918
Genre: Middle Grade Classic!
Pages: 288
Source: Borrowed from Library
Buy the Book: The Tin Woodman of Oz

Synopsis: The Tin Woodman sat on his glittering tin throne in the handsome tin hall of his splendid tin castle in the Winkie Country of the Land of Oz.

The Emperor of the Winkies and his old friend the Scarecrow of Oz welcome their inquisitive visitor: Woot, the Wanderer, from faraway Gillikin Country. Soon tales are being told, and memories are flowing . . .

And before they know it, with Woot and the lovely Polychrome, the Rainbow’s Daughter, the Tin Woodman and Scarecrow undertake an astonishing quest, in search of the Tin Man’s lost love, Nimmee Amee — from the days before he was metal! (Via Amazon)

Brian’s Review: What’s that phrase? Patience is a virtue, right? After the disappointment of Scarecrow of Oz, a book that barely even has the Scarecrow in it, and the miserable bore that was Rinki-Tink of Oz, I was close to putting an end to my fourteen-month Oz project. I wasn’t having any fun, and such seemed to be the only real point in this project (aside from having written an Oz fable myself and wanting to learn more about the universe and characters). The Lost Princess of Oz, book 11 in Baum’s initial 14-book series, was a step in the right direction, with a return to a simple and engaging storyline, as well as the characters we know and love. And now, with just three novels to go, I’m so happy to report that Tin Woodman of Oz, book 12, is an absolute joy from beginning to end, and possibly the best of all the sequels.

Tin Woodman of Oz is the book I hoped Scarecrow of Oz to be, a story that would give us backstory on one of the iconic characters from the first book. That book, however, felt like something entirely different, with the Scarecrow appearing in the last third seemingly like an afterthought. Tin Woodman of Oz, on the other hand, focuses entirely on our beloved Nick Chopper, who finally gets the chance to tell his heartbreaking story about the girl he loved but who the Wicked Witch of the East, whose Dorothy’s house later squashed, prevented him from being with. We discover how he used to be a man of flesh and then became all made of tin (in all its gruesome details!), and why obtaining a heart was so important to him in the first place. He ultimately sets out on a journey to find his love Nimmee Amee, with the help from two friends, the Scarecrow, and a new character named Woot. Does he find her and get back together? Will he find true joy again?

Tin Woodman of Oz isn’t a perfect novel by any means. It’s another adventure story, with Oz characters on foot bumping into wild and eccentric characters spurred from Baum’s imagination, but this one rings truer because we generally care about Nick Chopper and his pursuit to find his love. Imagine if J.K. Rowling had written a sequel where Albus Dumbledore set out on a journey to find his childhood love, and you get the idea (wow, what a book that would be!). One section in the middle of the book, where the trio transform into animals, drags a bit, and I also wish the Cowardly Lion could’ve been the third major character here, but the novel’s conclusion is genuinely surprising, in a good way, and the entertainment value in this one exceeds anything in the series since Ozma of Oz, the other great sequel Baum wrote. If you’re interested in reading later Oz books, I would many of the many titles, all so you can get to this one. Tin Woodman of Oz is great fun, and a treat for fans of The Wizard of Oz. I’m so happy I stuck with the series long enough to get to it!

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Book Review: The Lost Princess of Oz

425px-Cover_~_The_Lost_Princess_of_OzTitle: The Lost Princess of Oz
Written by: L. Frank Baum
Series: Book 11 in the Oz series
Publisher: Reilly & Britton
Publish Date: 1917
Genre: Middle Grade Classic!
Pages: 312
Source: Borrowed from Library
Buy the Book: The Lost Princess of Oz

Synopsis: Princess Ozma is missing! When Dorothy awakens one morning to discover that the beloved ruler of the Land of Oz has disappeared, all of the Emerald City’s most celebrated citizens join in the search for the lost princess.

But Ozma isn’t all that’s gone missing. The magical treasures of Oz have disappeared, too, including the Magic Picture, the Wizard’s black bag, and even Glinda’s Great Book of Records. With no clues to guide them, Ozma’s friends separate into four search parties and spread out across their vast country in a desperate quest for their absent ruler.

Deep in the Winkle Country, Dorothy’s search party is soon Joined by Cayke the Cookie Cook, who has lost a magic gold dishpan, and the amazing Frogman, a man-sized frog who walks on his hind legs. Together with these new allies, Ozma’s friends learn that their valued possessions aren’t missing but have been stolen by a mysterious villain. If their new foe is powerful enough to steal Princess Ozma and all of their magical treasures, how will they defeat him with no magic of their own? (Via Amazon)

Brian’s Review: Since reading The Patchwork Girl of Oz, I’ve been complaining that many of these later sequels are subpar to the magic and wonder of the original The Wizard of Oz (released in 1900) and Ozma of Oz, still the best of the sequels. I was particularly disappointed by The Scarecrow of Oz  and Rinki-Tink of Oz, both which felt like non-Oz books, with some generic Oz elements thrown in during the last few chapters. With only four books left to go in Baum’s series, I was worried there wouldn’t be any bright light as I reach the end this December. Was there going to be a late surprise? YES!

The Lost Princess of Oz is grand entertainment, a rousing adventure all the way through, and it does everything right where so many of the other sequels have gone wrong. What works here? One, a simple story. The last two sequels were so damn complicated sometimes I’d start skimming. In this one, Ozma gets kidnapped, and her friends have to find her. That’s it. And it makes for a fun journey. Two, we actually get to spend the book with the characters we adore! Unlike Rinki-Tink in Oz, which introduces us to new characters for 250 pages and then throws Dorothy and Ozma in the last couple characters, The Lost Princess of Oz gives us Glinda and Dorothy and the Scarecrow and many others from the early books, from the get-go! Baum does spend too much time in the middle portion with the amazing Frogman character, but even he is one of the more charming new characters of these later sequels. Three, there’s a strong and at times spooky villain, Ugu, the Shoemaker. Not only are the illustrations of this old, vindictive man rather eerie, but he is easily the most memorable villain Baum has created since the Nome King. What happens to him, and where he ends up in the end, is also unexpected, and surprisingly beautiful. And four, this adventure, unlike some of the others, feels fresh, with lots of innovative ideas along the way, one of my favorites being a wall of ghost girl soldiers who pretend to have the power to keep the core characters away from Ugu’s lair.

As we head into October, the fourteen-month Oz books project, something I’ve wanted to take on for years, is winding down, with only three books left to go. After Baum died, the books continued by John R. Neill, but I wanted to focus solely on the works Baum had his stamp on. As I get nearer to the end, I’m very interested to see if there’s any sense of finality in Glinda of Oz, Baum’s final book, but I’m not done yet! I’m excited to see if the Tin Woodman gets his own story in book 12, and not be tossed off to the side for the majority of the pages like the Scarecrow did in book 9. Not every sequel has been a success, but I’m so happy to see the amount of fun Baum seems to had on The Lost Princess of Oz, easily the best sequel of the series since The Emerald City of Oz. If you’re not going book by book like I am, and just simply want to read a fun later sequel, give The Lost Princess of Oz a try. It’s a great read!

Book Review: Rinkitink in Oz

coverTitle: Rinkitink in Oz
Written by: L. Frank Baum
Series: Book 10 in the Oz series
Publisher: Reilly & Britton
Publish Date: 1916
Genre: Middle Grade Classic!
Pages: 318
Source: Received as a Child
Buy the Book: Rinkitink in Oz

Synopsis: Meet Rinkitink–a kindhearted king who’s as fat and jolly as old Saint Nick himself! When the jovial monarch sails for a visit to the island kingdom of Pingaree, he and his talking goat, Bilbil, are welcomed with open arms. Before long, Rinkitink’s lighthearted ways and merry songs endear him to the king and queen of Pingaree, as well as to their son, Prince Inga.

But when the peaceful isle is invaded by fierce warriors, everyone from the rulers to the smallest child is taken off in chains. Only Prince Inga, Rinkitink, and Bilbil escape the conquerors. And so the three friends set out–aided by the magical Pearls of Pingaree–to rescue the prince’s people.

Their perilous quest takes them across the vast Nonestic Ocean to the terrible islands of Regos and Coregos to the dark underground domains of the Nome King. Victories are followed by setbacks, which are in turn followed by strokes of good fortune. Just when it seems our friends have met their match in the clever Nome King, Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz arrive to lend a hand.  (Via Goodreads)

Brian’s Review: Reading the Oz books has become more like homework assignments than sources of pleasure readings lately, and the tenth installment in Baum’s 14-book series is no different. But it’s like getting through the last three seasons of Smallville: it may be difficult, but the end is near. Rinkitink of Oz has sat on my shelf for twenty years. It was the last Oz book I ever got as a child. In fact, I still remember the exact bookstore in Roseville, California, I bought it at in the summer of 1993. I don’t know why in the world I would have bought the tenth book and not the ninth — I owned books #1 to #8, and #10, but for some weird reason decided to not buy #9, or any of the last four books in the series for that matter. So I’ve looked at that strange Rinkitink cover for twenty years, only to finally take the book off the shelf this weekend and try to force myself through 300 pages of a weird, not especially involving fantasy story that has next to nothing to do with anything Oz. Dorothy pops in during Chapter 20, and proceeds to make a cameo in the denoument. But by the time she gets there, it’s too little, too late.

Of course, if you look at Wikipedia, you discover the reason why this installment in the series doesn’t feel so much like an Oz book. No one from the books appears until the final 50 pages. Why? Because this wasn’t even written as an Oz story. Rinkitink in Oz had been written ten years prior, as a totally separate fantasy book. After the success of the Oz books, Baum tried to write stand-alone books completely unrelated to Oz, and he would be turned down by publishers time and time again. It got to the point where he had to take an unremarkable story like this one, and put in some Oz elements just to get it published. Now, let me make it clear: I don’t mind reading an Oz book that has few of the characters from previous books, or one that even takes mostly outside of the land of Oz. But I’m only going to warm up to a book like this if it compels me, if it pulls me into the narrative, and so much of Rinkitink of Oz just fell flat on the page to me. I’ve struggled a lot with the last couple books, but I’m still hopeful one of the few remaining sequels will impress me. The next one, The Lost Princess of Oz, sounds promising, with a plot that incorporates Dorothy and Glinda from the get-go. Come on, Lyman. Give me a late-minute surprise here.

Over the Rainbow is LIVE!

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My newest young adult novel went live on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and CreateSpace today, with iBookstore still to come! Here’s the synopsis and early reviews below. Check it out!

Zippy Green never meant to fall in love with a girl, but when she does, her ultra-conservative father tries to send her to anti-gay camp. At the Kansas City airport, however, she hides inside a giant suitcase and sneaks onto an airplane headed not to the camp, but to Seattle, where her online love Mira lives. Halfway through the flight, the plane barrels out of control and crashes into the ground, knocking her unconscious. 

When Zippy awakens, she finds that most of the passengers have vanished. She doesn’t know what’s happened, but she’s determined to find out. She begins a quest on foot toward Seattle, and along the way, she meets a teenager with a concussion, a homeless man with a heart condition, a child without a shred of bravery, and a terrier named Judy. Together the group discovers that more than two-thirds of the world’s population have mysteriously disappeared. But that’s only the beginning…

All Zippy wants is to find her Mira, but before she can she has to contend with two outside forces. The first is her homophobic father, who does everything in his power to keep her from the girl she loves. And the second is extinct creatures of all shapes and sizes, including living, breathing dinosaurs, which have replaced the missing population.

“I absolutely loved Over the Rainbow. The characters were wonderful, and I loved the parallels between it and The Wizard of Oz” – Burning Impossibly Bright

“This was a fantastic book! As a longtime fan of The Wizard of Oz I’m always interested in alternate versions and inspired works, and Over the Rainbow just made my list” – Noemi Betancourt

“Over the Rainbow is a surreal road trip unlike anything I have ever read, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a unique read” – Fighting Dreamer

Buy it Now!

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Book Review: Tik-Tok of Oz

068813355x-01-lzzzzzzz1Title: Tik-Tok of Oz
Written by: L. Frank Baum
Series: Book 8 in the Oz series
Publisher: Reilly & Britton
Publish Date: 1914
Genre: Middle Grade Classic!
Pages: 258
Source: Received as a Child
Buy the Book: Tik-Tok of Oz

Synopsis: Book 8 in L. Frank Baum’s immortal OZ series, in which Betsy Bobbin and Hank the Mule are shipwrecked on the coast of Oz, meet up with the invading army of Queen Ann of Oogaboo, and help the Shaggy Man rescue his brother from the evil Nome King.

Can the queen of Oogaboo, a small country in an isolated corner of Oz, take over all of Oz? Talking roses, Shaggy Man and Betsy from Oklahoma are but a few of the unusual characters in Tik-Tok of Oz, the eighth Oz novel by L. Frank Baum, and the first to bring a girl other than Dorothy to that enchanted land. (Via Amazon)

Brian’s Review: After the bloated The Patchwork Girl of Oz, I was happily surprised by the lean, fun, mostly successful eighth entry in the Oz series. While not as strong as the best Oz sequels—Ozma of Oz and The Emerald City of Oz—it’s definitely one of the most entertaining. The set-up is simple and, thankfully, not convoluted, as Baum introduces the reader to two different story-lines that quickly merge together. One has to do with a girl and a mule washing up on shore (a plot device Baum used before in at least one of the earlier books), and a queen at the outer reaches of Oz who wants to take over all the land. And then there’s the Shaggy Man, who needs to save his brother from the Nome King! Baum piles on the characters and the drama from the get-go, and mostly keeps Dorothy out this time around. Tik-Tok shows up, of course, and plays a vital role in the proceedings. The book has its exciting and adventurous moments, and, like all the others, wraps up in a pleasing, if bit too simplistic, manner.

Baum seems to be having more fun this time around, and doesn’t have the same sour attitude in his introduction. By book 8, he probably figured he was in the Oz world for the long haul, and needed to finally accept it. One of my favorite parts of reading all these books has been seeing the author’s evolution in his little notes at the beginning of each one. Imagine what J.K. Rowling would have written before the first Harry Potter book, before it became a success, as opposed to her introduction to the seventh one? Thankfully for Rowling, she was able to finish the series when she wanted, and how she wanted. A hundred years ago, Baum had to churn out these Oz books just to live. Tik-Tok of Oz isn’t great, but it does the job fine, and young readers especially will probably enjoy this one, with all its action and large clan of eccentric characters.

With six more books to go, it will be interesting to see if Baum just does more of the same, or surprises me by taking characters we’ve come to know and love into more unexpected places. I’ll be hoping for the latter.

oz2_086TikTok

Book Review: The Patchwork Girl of Oz (100th Anniversary!)

i003Title: The Patchwork Girl of Oz
Written by: L. Frank Baum
Series: Book 7 in the Oz series
Publisher: Reilly & Britton
Publish Date: 1913
Genre: Middle Grade Classic!
Pages: 352
Source: Received as a Child
Buy the Book: The Patchwork Girl of Oz

Synopsis: Forced to venture out of the dark forest, Unc Nunkie and Ojo the Unlucky call on the Crooked Magician, who introduces them to his latest creation: a living girl made out of patchwork quilts and cotton stuffing. But when an accident leaves beloved Unc Nunkie a motionless statue, it is up to Ojo to save him. In his search for the magic ingredients that will restore his uncle to life, Ojo is joined by the Patchwork Girl and by the conceited Glass Cat, who boasts of her hard ruby heart, the resourceful Shaggy Man, and the lovable block-headed Woozy, whose tail hairs are just one of the things Ojo needs to rescue Une Nunkie.

As they travel to the Emerald City, home of the wise and powerful Ozma, they meet Dorothy, the kind and sensible girl from Kansas; the gallant Scarecrow; and, of course, Toto. But no one proves more loyal than the spirited Patchwork Girl, who, although she was brought to life as a servant, is determined to see the wide world for herself. (Via Amazon)

Brian’s Review: In 1910, L. Frank Baum put a firm, decisive end to his Oz series, with The Emerald City of Oz, the sixth installment, by cutting off the land of Oz from the rest of the world… for good! Three years passed, and no Oz books. Of course we all know that Baum would go on to write a whopping eight more. So what happened? From Wikipedia: “He was forced to restart the series with this book due to financial hardships.” So essentially The Patchwork Girl of Oz exists because Baum needed the money, and for me, this kind of approach to the material, not of passion or want, but necessity, is apparent all through the pages. This is not only the longest Oz book so far, at 350 pages (Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz was 220), but it’s also the weakest in terms of originality and excitement. When the title character having a romance with the Scarecrow is the most interesting plot development in the book, you know something’s not quite right.

Of course the book is entertaining enough to please readers out there, young and old, and Baum even stated once that this was one of the two best books he ever wrote. His reasoning for being able to revisit the land of Oz is a clever one. One of the many readers who pined for more books suggested to Baum that he should correspond with Princess Dorothy through wireless telegraph, and by golly, it worked! These books were so popular that it seems surprising it took Baum three years to write the next one, but the main question I have is, did we need more?

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Maybe my problem at this point is that the books are becoming just a little too routine for my taste. They always start with characters finding themselves with a crisis, a need to have something fixed, and then the characters begin their journey to the Emerald City to find the help they need. In this case we have a slate of new characters, like Ojo, a munchkin boy; Scraps, the patchwork girl, and Bungle, a Glass Cat. Ojo’s Unc Nunkie accidentally gets petrified into a marble statute, and Ojo has to set on a quest to return him to his normal state. The first big chunk of the book completely revolves around new characters. Along the way the group meets all the beloved characters we’ve come to know over the last six books, and in the end, the Wizard of Oz ultimately saves the day. It’s fun to see all these characters again, but at some point, even though I know these are children’s books, I want some stakes, some horror, something to throw the series for a loop. It’d be like if the seventh Harry Potter novel was just Rowling introducing a couple new wizards, have them have fun with Harry and Ron and Hermione for a few days, then go home.

Of course kids will probably have a fun time with The Patchwork Girl of Oz, and all the previous entries of the series. While the original Wizard of Oz is still my favorite of the series, two sequels have exceeded my expectations—Ozma of Oz and The Emerald City of Oz. These were two sequels where Baum raised the stakes a little and gave us some real terror spread out among the more casual nature of the characters’ journeys. While this one disappointed me a little, I’m confident he’ll have some tricks up his sleeves for the remaining books. The last one as a child that I ever owned and perused over was Tik-Tok of Oz, the eighth installment, and I know absolutely zip about Books 9-14. Here’s hoping for a nice surprise!

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