The Emerald City of Oz

The Emerald City of Oz by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by John R. Neill.
Published by Reilly & Britton, 1910.
Books of Wonder facsimile edition, HarperCollins,  1993.

We started The Emerald City of Oz, the sixth book in the original Baum series, back in September.  Due to our crazy Halloween reading, we only completed the book this week!

The endpapers!  Sigh.

I wasn't excited to start this one.  It is sandwiched between The Road to Oz and The Patchwork Girl of Oz, two of my favorites in the series, and when I began reading it to the girls, it was with a sigh and a wish to plow through it quickly.  I did remember it being a bit more sophisticated in its storytelling.  The book begins in the caverns of The Nome King, Roquat the Red, as he vows revenge upon the land of Oz and its citizens for the loss of his Magic Belt.  (See Ozma of Oz.)  From there, the book alternates between the Nomes and their evil allies and the good people of Oz, with a stop in Kansas along the way.  Aunt Em and Uncle Henry are about to lose the farm, and Dorothy arranges with Ozma to bring her aunt and uncle to Oz.  The three will live there permanently - no more Kansas.

Then I read Oz: The Hundredth Anniversary Celebration (blogged about here).  One of the authors who contributed to that book wrote that her favorite book in the series was The Emerald City of Oz, citing her love of Miss Cuttenclip, among other inventive characters.  I did wonder if my initial ambivalence toward the book was unfair.

The girls and I grew more excited when we came to the first full-color illustration, opposite the title page. Our copy is the facsimile edition by Books of Wonder, of course.  I don't know if it translates well in my photographs, but any time the emerald green color appears in the book, it is metallic and glittery.  Oooo, glitter.  The way to our hearts!  

And the story did move faster for me this time.  Dorothy brings her aunt and uncle to Oz, then the three set off with the Wizard and other friends to explore parts of Oz they haven't yet seen.  Among the characters we meet are Miss Cuttenclip, who presides over a paper doll world brought to life by Glinda; jigsaw puzzle people called the Fuddles; kitchen utensils come to life in Utensia; living, breathing baked goods, in the land of Bunbury; rabbits dressed in fine clothing in Bunnybury; overly talkative folks called the Rigmaroles; and worrywarts known as the Flutterbudgets.

Interspersed are chapters involving the Nome King and General Guph, who travels to recruit enemies to aid in Roquat's revenge plan.  The Whimsies have very tiny heads, so they wear giant, terrible false heads to make up for it.  The Growleywogs are great giants.  The Phanfasms are the most mysterious and the most powerful.  All three of the enemies plan to turn on the nomes and each other.

I do not want to give any more away.  I will say that Baum intended for this to be the last book in the series.  He had other fantastic lands and characters that he wanted to write about.  The book ends on that note, with Oz cut off forever from the rest of the world.  Alas, financial hardships led Baum to resume the series two years later, as his Oz books were guaranteed money-makers.  

Next week:  Scraps, Scraps, Scraps!  We're reading The Patchwork Girl of Oz.

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Thankful Thursday

Some of the silly little things I'm thankful for this week.

Hot drinks in chilly weather.

This is from Knolla's, our favorite local pizza chain.  Take that, Pizza Hut!

Lucy, Mabel's sister, finally moved in.  Her kittens live with friends now.
Her beloved brother, Orange Boy,
is officially missing, and we think Lucy decided she'd rather
come inside than be alone.

This kid.  Books.  Produce.  What's not to love?
(And seriously, this book is awesome!)

The colors are fading to brown, and then the sun hits the trees just right.

Kids' artwork.  This is from Little Sis's Thanksgiving series.
My vegetarian, peaceful hippie self was a bit appalled
by the last drawing.
I read this one and The Peach Keeper this week!  All ready
for Lost Lake come January!

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Squash Love

Had enough pumpkin?  How about squash?

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and like many an eater, I have cooking and feasting on my mind.  I love a good butternut squash dish.  I often serve roasted butternut, cubed with freshly chopped rosemary, as a side.  I brought one of my favorite macaroni and cheese dishes to a read-through last Saturday, a favorite from Cooking Light, made with butternut squash and Gruyere.  The next day, we celebrated my dad's birthday with a dinner at my sister's.  I spent the afternoon making this magical pizza I found on Pinterest (the blog is called Half-Baked Harvest, and it's full of beautiful food), and it tasted as wonderful as it looked. (Look at the colors!  It's Christmas in a pizza!)  I need to pester my mother for her butternut risotto recipe next.

Butternut squash also makes delightful picture book fodder.

Sophie's Squash [Schwartz and Wade, 2013], written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf, is one of the most charming stories we've read in a while.  Sophie chooses a butternut squash from the farmer's market, but eating it is the furthest thing from her mind.  She names the squash Bernice.  As the blurb on the back of the book says, "Bernice was just the right size to love."  Bernice becomes Sophie's favorite playmate.

Of course, the inevitable starts to happen.  Bernice becomes spotty, then soft.

Sophie seeks the advice of the man at the farmer's market.  "What keeps a squash healthy?"  She makes a bed in the earth for Bernice, hoping the dirt will make her healthy again.  Winter passes, and Sophie's parents give her a pet fish, which doesn't replace Bernice, but becomes a worthy companion.  Spring arrives, and a happy surprise is waiting for Sophie in Bernice's spot.

This is a darling picture book.  The story is so sweet, and the illustrations are cute and cartoonish.  Read this with your kids, then print the activity page from the Random House website.

The girls and I also decided to revisit one of our favorites from the storytimes I used to do at the bookstore.

The Ugly Pumpkin [GP Putnam's Sons, 2005] by Dave Horowitz is the silly, rhyming story of a very mopey, bullied pumpkin who is left behind on Halloween.  No one wants a pumpkin this ugly.  The other pumpkins, a Halloween skeleton, even the trees make fun of him.

Until one day, he finds a field of squash...

It turns out that the Ugly Pumpkin's story was never a Halloween story but a Thanksgiving tale!

I love reading this one aloud.  My Ugly Pumpkin has the most pathetic mopey voice this side of Eeyore.  For a less goofy rendition, watch the video below.

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Pumpkins Are Yummy

Happy 11/12/13!  It is cold here today.  Last night, the low dropped to 22 degrees, and the high today will only be 38!  (Tomorrow is supposed to be warmer.)

I am a pumpkin fiend.  I love pumpkin baked goods, but I also adore pumpkin soup.  A friend of mine is supposed to send me a recipe for pumpkin polenta.  Seriously, pumpkin is my favorite food part of fall.

I use canned pumpkin sometimes, I do, but last year I learned how easy it is to roast and puree your own pumpkin, and now, it's our post-Halloween tradition.  We usually wind up with a few smaller sugar pumpkins on our porch, thanks to trips to the pumpkin patch.  I usually can't resist buying a couple from the grocery store, too.  These two little pumpkins yielded FIVE cups of pureed goodness.  That's five loaves of pumpkin bread right there!

 4.  Scrape out the stringy part with a spoon.  I actually like to use my fingers to remove the seeds first.  Then I can remove some of the flesh from the seeds as I go.  SAVE THE SEEDS.

5. Cut your pumpkin into 4 to 8 pieces, and place the pieces on a baking sheet.  Pop in your oven for 45 minutes.  While your pumpkin is baking, you can rinse your pumpkin seeds and dry them well.

6.  After the pumpkin is done baking, let it sit until it's cool enough to handle.  The skin will be a deeper orange, and the flesh will be tinged with brown.

7.  Peel the skin off your pumpkin pieces.  You may have to use a butter knife to get it started, but the skin comes off pretty easily!

8.  Puree in batches.  I use a food processor, some people use a blender.  Some people just mash it.

9. Now, if you are planning to cook with your puree right away, measure out what you need and save the rest.  Thank you, Pioneer Woman, for this perfect suggestion:   Freeze in small, one cup batches.  Most recipes tend to call for pumpkin puree in cups, and this way, you know exactly how much is in each freezer bag.  (Really, her instructions are the same as mine.  For a much more entertaining post with better photography, you might prefer hers anyway.)

Now, let us not forget those...

I have made three loaves of pumpkin bread and one batch of pumpkin chocolate chip muffins over the past couple of weeks.  My goal is to start whipping up pies soon!  If you are interested, I have collected quite a few delicious pumpkiny things on my Autumntime pinboard.   For more fall goodness, you might also check my Thankful and Warm & Snuggly pinboards, too.

The girls are pestering me for pumpkin soup.  My favorite recipe calls for a fancier variety of pumpkin, which is cubed and cooked with the rest of the soup.  I suppose I may be buying another pumpkin soon...

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