The Tin Woodman of Oz

The Tin Woodman of Oz by L. Frank Baum,
illustrated by John R. Neill.
Originally published by Reilly & Britton, 1918.
Books of Wonder edition, HarperCollins, 1999.

We are 80 pages into the twelfth Oz book, The Tin Woodman of Oz. I told the daughters, once we finished Rinkitink, there was nothing but good stuff to follow. They loved The Lost Princess of Oz, as I knew they would. I remembered loving this one the first time through, but I'm surprised by what I forgot.

The Tin Woodman of Oz opens in the Winkie Country, at the tin castle of the title character. As he is entertaining his friend, the Scarecrow, they are visited by a young Gillikin boy, Woot the Wanderer.

Their conversation turns to the Tin Woodman's pre-tin life in the Munchkin Country, when he was a flesh-and-blood woodcutter named Nick Chopper. As he first explained in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Nick Chopper was in love with a lass named Nimmie Amee, slave to the Wicked Witch of the East. Overhearing them in the garden one day, the Witch enchanted Nick Chopper's axe, causing him to chop off his leg. A local tinsmith kindly fashioned him a new one, but the enchanted axe continued to chop off body part after body part, until the entire man was made of tin. Without a heart, the Tin Woodsman fell out of love with the girl. Even the heart supplied by the Wizard did no good, as it was a kind heart, not a loving heart.

The Tin Woodsman wonders about Nimmie Amee. Has she missed him all this time? He resolves to travel to Munchkin Land and propose to her. He may not love her, but wouldn't it be kind of him to make her Empress of the Winkies? Woot the Wanderer doubts it, but he's very happy to accompany his new friends on the quest.

Along the way, they meet the usual assortment of strange peoples, starting with the inflatable Loons of Loonville, hot-tempered balloon people who pop and must be repaired.

And they meet the giantess, Mrs. Yoop, wife of Mr. Yoop from The Patchwork Girl of Oz. Mrs. Yoop is a Yookoohoo, a type of witch, and specializes in transformations. The biscuits she eats as our heroes enter her dining room, for example, were mice! She has also transformed a popular character into a canary, which she keeps in a cage. Unfortunately, she intends to transform our trio, too.

And she does.

The Tin Woodman of Oz sees the return of Jinjur, the girl general who led the revolt in The Marvelous Land of Oz, only now she is a force of good. She sends to the Emerald City for help, but Woot's weird "green monkey" form proves to be a bit of a challenge.

I had honestly forgotten most of the book to this point. What I remember best is the weird, funny trip to Munchkin Land, where they encounter another tin man, a soldier named Captain Fy-ter. The captain has much in common with the Tin Woodsman. He joins the band to find Nimmie Amee.

And things get crazy from there. I mean, crazy. Conversations with one's own disembodied head, a man cobbled together from cast off body parts...  Trust me. You really ought to read this book.

The Tin Woodman of Oz has some lovely black and white illustrations, courtesy of John R. Neill. There doesn't seem to be as many color plates, but Neill finally gives us a look at Polychrome, the Rainbow's Daughter, in color!

Our next book is The Magic of Oz. I remember someone changes into a bird. I don't remember much more, except I'm looking forward to the return of Bungle, the Glass Cat, one of my favorite characters.

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Moon Man

Moon Man by Tomi Ungerer.
Originally published in Switzerland (Der Mondmann) by Diogenes Verlag AG Zürich,
and in the U.S. by Harper & Row, 1967.
Reprinted by Phaidon, 2009.

I didn't grow up with the books of Tomi Ungerer. He wasn't even on my radar. This makes me sad, although I guess I didn't know what I was missing. I first checked him out after reading about The Three Robbers in 1001 Children's Books To Read Before You Grow Up. That one became a particular favorite in our house, Mr. B included. Of the others we checked out from the library, our second favorite was Moon Man.

I picked up a copy for keeps at Reading Reptile in Kansas City last summer.  Have you or your littles read it?

The man in the moon is bored. Every night, he watches people dancing, and longs to join them. One night, he catches the tail of a comet and crashes to Earth.

"The noise brought hundreds of people from a nearby town. Soldiers sped to defend the earth. Firemen hastened to quench the flaming light. The ice cream man hurried to set up his stand for the spectators."

The officials lock the poor Moon Man in jail, but as the moon shrinks to a quarter, so does the Moon Man, and he is able to squeeze through the bars. He reappears when the moon becomes full, and explores the earth, enjoying nature. He fulfills his dream of dancing when he stumbles upon a costume period. Unfortunately, as the party breaks up, the officials spot him and chase him through the woods. He happens upon an old castle, home of a scientist. The scientist sends him back to the moon on a rocket, finally gaining recognition from the scientific community. The Moon Man is content to be home.

There is a Scholastic video of Moon Man, made in 1981.

But the reason I am posting about the book this evening? Last night, the girls and I watched the recent feature film!

The movie is a joint German-Irish production, released in the U.S. by Tribeca Film. I found it on Amazon Prime Instant last week. [You can also stream it via iTunes, Google Play, or Vudu, or grab it on DVD or Blu-Ray.]

As with most feature films based on picture books, the plot has been greatly fleshed out. Now we see how the Moon Man's disappearance affects the children of Earth, who are unable to sleep. The President is the main adversary, and he and the scientist have a backstory. There are some beautiful moments, such as Moon Man floating on a river, surrounded by flowers, to the sound of Louis Armstrong singing "Moon River." It's a much quieter, stranger animated film than we're used to these days, at least in the U.S. I prefer the picture book, but the movie was definitely worth watching. The girls thought the Moon Man was cute, and they felt sorry for him, but they complained his voice was creepy! It's definitely odd. It reminded me of E.T. - only Moon Man talks a lot more.

Listen for the voice of the narrator: it's Tomi Ungerer himself!

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The Selkie Girl and Song of the Sea

Hello, dear readers! I may be landlocked in Kansas, but I have the ocean on the brain. Well, not really. Just selkies.

Selkies are not the most well-known mythological creatures in my part of the world. I never heard of such a thing until I saw The Secret of Roan Inish on video in the mid-nineties. [Sigh. I love that movie so much.] We still haven't bought a copy of Cartoon Saloon's Oscar-nominated Song of the Sea, but my patience with the library finally paid off. Our hold came through this weekend, so the girls and I settled in to watch our movie.

Oh, my. I love this movie. I am an animation junkie, and as much as I love Pixar and some computer-made flicks, I miss traditional animation.

Song of the Sea is about a brother and sister, Ben and Saoirse, who live with their father, alone by the sea. Their mother disappeared soon after Saoirse's birth, and their father is depressed, Ben is full of resentment, and Saoirse has yet to utter a single word. One night, Saoirse sneaks into Ben's room and grabs the musical shell his mother left him. As she begins to play a haunting melody, magical lights fill the room and lead her to a locked trunk. There, she finds a little white sealskin coat...

The children move with their grandmother to the city, but on Halloween, three little men arrive, telling them that Saoirse must return to the sea, find her voice, and save the fairy folk. The whole thing is so beautiful.

My father gave the girls a book. We've had it for a bit, but I saved it to read it the night we watched our movie. It's published by Floris Books, the company responsible for the beautiful English-language  Elsa Beskow and Sybille von Olfers now in print. The Selkie Girl is the sweet story of a lonely Scottish boy and the week he spends with a selkie girl. It's a beautiful paperback with French flaps.

The Selkie Girl, retold by Jani Mackay, illustrated by Ruchi Mhasane.
Floris Books, 2014.

Back cover of The Selkie Girl.

Fergus is the son of a fisherman, a widower who is having a streak of bad luck. One day as Fergus is beachcombing, he finds an odd fur. He takes it, not hearing the cries of a girl farther down the beach. The girl is a selkie. The tide is rolling in, and she is trapped. She dives into the ocean, her swimming made difficult without flippers or fins. She makes her way to Fergus's cottage, where she knocks on his window.

Fergus promises he'll return her skin, if she will only spend a week with him. He is lonely and friendless. She agrees. While she refuses to sleep in the cottage, preferring an overturned boat on the beach, she and Fergus spend a fun week together, flying a kite, playing, cooking on the beach. She shows him how to catch fish with his bare hands, which is useful to his father. When the week is over, he begs her to stay but she refuses. He returns her skin. From that day on, his father's luck changes. The fish become more plentiful, and he has plenty to sell in the village. Fergus meets the village children, and he is friendless no longer.

It's amusing to me that here in America, if we know anything about selkies, it's from movies set in Ireland: The Secret of Roan Inish, Song of the Sea, Neil Jordan's Ondine (which is on my Netflix list, and I will watch it someday.) In researching selkies for this post, I discovered that while the lore exists in Ireland, Scotland, and the Faroe Islands, with similar traditions in Iceland, it is Scotland that seems to have the best hold on the legend, particularly in the Orkney and Shetland islands. I put together a new Pinterest board, just for selkies, linking to art, books, songs, and films. Enjoy!

And if anyone has a particular selkie-related work to recommend to me, please mention it in the comments. Thanks!

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Dinosaur vs. Mommy

Dinosaur vs. Mommy by Bob Shea.
Disney Hyperion, 2015.

Happy Mother's Day, beautiful mother readers! 

Somehow, I completely missed the fact that Bob Shea released a new Dinosaur vs. book this year. I've been trying to score a copy of Ballet Cat from the library, which ours still doesn't have. We did, however, find this one on the new release shelf, and the girls promptly grabbed it. You see, Bob Shea books are funny. It doesn't matter how old you are. And this is my favorite Dinosaur book yet.

And it's perfect for Mother's Day!

Our adorable little dinosaur toddler (wearing his goat pajamas!) is giving Mommy a hard time - again.

This time, we're talking everyday hard times: Mommy trying to sleep in, Mommy trying to take a shower, Mommy grocery shopping, Mommy doing laundry, Mommy getting the little guy bathed and ready for bed.

I think he flushed one of these bunnies.

Look - he scored a unicorn balloon.

This book had us cackling. My daughters are 9 and 7, and they are not completely above some of this behavior. Sleeping in? Begging at the grocery store? Putting off bedtime? Wearing underwear on one's head?

Okay, I think it's been a few years since I saw anyone wear their underwear on their head.

May I also say how much I want the lamp and chair in this book? Love the midcentury furniture.

We love Bob Shea books, as you can see. If you're on Facebook, and you're not following him yet, please click here and do so now. He has a YouTube account and pretty cool (although not recently updated) website, too.

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