"The Tin Woodman of Oz" by L. Frank Baum
Books of Wonder/William Morrow, 294 pp., $25.99
Reviewed by David Marshall James
As summer fast approaches, this blog will be featuring several selections for "Tween" and "Young Adult" readers. For those with a penchant for fantasy, nothing surpasses L. Frank Baum's fourteen "Oz" volumes.
I devoured J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter books and have fingers and toes crossed that her pen hasn't run dry of ink. (Although it's understood there'll be no further Harry.) However, the Potter books are more appropriate for fifth/sixth graders and beyond.
For first through fourth graders, I heartily recommend the "Oz" books. And, as an adult, I derive even greater pleasure from them than I did back in elementary school.
One of the great attractions offered by the Books of Wonder/William Morrow series is that the "Oz" books are presented in facsimile editions, with all the original illustrations and color plates by artist John R. Neill, and with all the original typefaces. Neill's drawings are so detailed that one can return to them time and again and still discover details that have been missed.
The aesthetics of these editions make them true keepsakes.
"The Tin Woodman of Oz," in twenty-four chapters, ought to appeal to boys in that one of its principal characters, Woot the Wanderer, is a young man first presented in this twelfth "Oz" volume.
The peripatetic Woot happens upon the tin castle of the Tin Woodman, aka Emperor of the Winkies and, prior to that, Nick Chopper, humble woodcutter. The Tin Woodman and best pal, the Scarecrow, are having an amiable visit at the time of Woot's arrival.
While Woot catches up on his eating, the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow provide their personal histories, prompting Woot to wonder why the Emperor has never sought out his former love, Nimmie Amee, from whom he drifted apart as he was gradually replaced by tin limbs, without a heart.
The title character explains to Woot that the heart (stuffed velvet) he received from the Wizard only allows him kindness, not the ability to love, to which Woot replies that, if the Tin Woodman were truly kind, he would want to learn how Nimmie Amee has been faring in the interim.
With nothing much on their respective plates (actually nothing, as they neither eat nor sleep, as do "meat" creatures), the Tin Woodman, the Scarecrow, and Woot set out to find Nimmie, whom the Tin Woodman claims he will marry, if she'll still have him.
Thus begins one of the literary journeys that author L. Frank Baum so favored in his "Oz" books, one in which the traveling trio are kidnapped and transformed by a giantess. Woot, who has been changed into a green monkey, is almost devoured by a jaguar, and later by a den of dragons.
Along the way, the Tin Woodman meets his alter ego, the Tin Soldier, who was assembled by the same tinsmith, whom the journeyers also seek out and encounter. As Baum adds more twists to his story, he reveals that the Tin Soldier (formerly Captain Fyter) was the follow-up suitor of Nimmie Amee after Nick Chopper.
As for the twice-deserted damsel-- well, that's a surprise! Make that, quite a surprise!
Kindly refer to the previous review of "Rinkitink in Oz" for another outstanding selection in this series, and look for another "Oz" volume review here some time in May, along with other suggestions for summer reading. Make that, reading for all seasons.
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