Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Latest Oz Reading

Yup, here are the last few Oz and Oz-adjacent books I've read recently:

  • I have so many books, some I haven't read for decades, that some time ago I decided to reread some of them. This time around it was Zim Greenleaf in Oz by Melody Grandy, the third and final volume in the Seven Blue Mountains of Oz trilogy. Zim has been the star of this series, so it's about time one of the books was named for him. If you haven't already met him, Zim is a biologist-wizard in the Munchkin country, and at the end of the last book he was officially named the Wizard of the Munchkin Country. Unlike the other two books, this one has less of a single plot, and is a series of adventures that Zim has in his new capacity. The largest has to do with Zim's fear of giants as he helps a small kingdom come to terms with its past history and reunite the royal family. Zim also has a misadventure where he is fractured into thirty-one smaller aspects of himself, each embodying one of his emotions or innate traits. He also has encounters with black druids and Tititi-Hoochoo before the book ends with Zim making a major life decision for himself and others, but he ends up happy and contented in the end. I've said this before, but I want to reiterate it once again: I think the Seven Blue Mountains books do an amazing job of world building. They make Oz feel so much more like a real live place than just about any other Oz book I have ever read, and that includes L. Frank Baum and the other Royal Historians. True, this is very clearly Oz, as Grandy is building on the very firm base that Baum created, but she does such an excellent job of taking those ideas, building on them logically, and making the reader see and think of Oz much more deeply. And Zim Greenleaf is a wonderful character. By following him over several decades, we get a lot better idea of what he's like, how he thinks and feels, than we ever could in a book covering a much shorter amount of time. So now I'm kind of sad it's all over, until I reread these books again in the retirement home or something.
  • If you know much about L. Frank Baum, you probably know that his mother-in-law was the noted suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage. Angelica Shirley Carpenter is an Oz fan and noted biographer for younger readers, so when she learned about Matilda, she set out to tell the story. The result is Born Criminal: Matilda Joslyn Gage,Radical Suffragist. It is not the only biography of Gage, but it's the only one I've read, since I know the author, and it seems to cover all the bases. The style is aimed at a younger audience, but I don't think most readers are going to mistake this for some of Carpenter's other books you might find in elementary school libraries, as it is very thorough and has endnotes and a lot more words than pictures. In other words, most people would think this was written for adults. Matilda herself is a fascinating character, and her rise within the women's suffrage movement and her relationships with others of the movement, notably Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, are intriguing. Although there's not a lot of Oz in this book, Matilda Gage is a very important figure in the creation of Oz, and this book really brings her to life.
  • With Yellow Brick War, I am now three-fourths of the way through Danielle Paige's Dorothy Must Die saga, and it is proving to be one wild ride. The battle to unseat Dorothy as dictator of Oz moves to Kansas, as Amy has to deal with being back home, dealing with her mother and her high school again (and wow, a lot has changed since she left), and whether or not she wants to be in the position she's been thrust into. Plus, there are her feelings towards Nox, which get even more complicated when he takes on a new role. Once Amy finds the silver slippers, the action moves back to Oz, where it is very clear that she has to kill Dorothy. But with all of Dorothy's new powers, that is not going to be an easy task at all. This should be one of the books that sags a bit, since it's leading up to the big finale, so not too much can happen. But this barrels right along, with all kinds of action, and there are also all kinds of Easter eggs for fans of the original Oz books. What keeps this book fresh is that not only is Amy changing, but so are all of those around her, and that causes all kinds of relationships to change, many in quite surprising ways. I'm looking forward to reading the final volume, The End of Oz, soon.
  • And finally, a successful Kickstarter campaign paid off with "Sundown", a special edition of The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West. Yes, one of my favorite Oz comics, an Old West retelling of the Oz books, is back, and my, it still looks good. This story is pretty much Glinda battling Mombi, but lots of other characters get to shine. In the end, one of the most beloved characters in the series makes her Legends of Oz debut, and writer Tom Hutchison has found a very clever way, actually using a location in the books, to deal with the final disenchantment needed instead of relying on Mombi. I hope this becomes more readily available to those who weren't involved in the Kickstarter campaign, and also that this is a sign that more books are coming.
That's probably going to be my last big Oz read for some time, but I do have at least one more recent acquisition that I may read soon. And who knows what may come in the comics order each month?

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