Friday, September 23, 2011

Mister Tinker in Oz

Following yesterday's post, why not look at the other Random House Oz book I got?

James Howe's Mister Tinker in Oz opens with Dorothy in Kansas, on a windy night. Aunt Em sends her out to fasten the gate, when Dorothy sees a ladder descend from the sky and a strange man climbing down it.

The man introduces himself as Ezra P. Tinker. He is Tik-Tok's surviving inventor, and according to his watch, Tik-Tok's thousand year guarantee is about to expire, so he needs to find Tik-Tok as soon as possible to make the necessary repairs.

Dorothy brings him up to speed on Tik-Tok's current whereabouts, as he had no way of knowing that Tik-Tok now lives in the Emerald City instead of Ev. So, Mr. Tinker comes up with a way to get them to Oz: mail. After addressing and stamping an envelope (with his foot), he shrinks them both so they can ride inside. However, the wind carries Dorothy away to Oz alone.

Emerging from the envelope, Dorothy finds herself surrounded by young children called the Widdlebits, who seek a caretaker from the Shiny Bellies, who are ants, but at Dorothy's present size, they are monsters. Can Mr. Tinker find them in time? And what other dangers lay between them and the Emerald City? And if they get there, will everything be all right? And most importantly, can Tik-Tok be found in time?

James Howe, writer of many children's books, including the Bunnicula series, actually proves a capable Oz storyteller, even in the standard six chapters of the Random House Oz books. He is witty, manages to have magic mastered by logic and perseverance, and altogether, provides a story that fits in well with Oz continuity. Unlike Ozma and the Wayward Wand, no specific time is given for the story, allowing it to fall easily after Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, although the Wizard could not appear.

David Rose again proves a capable illustrator, though there are some spots where the story could have used a few more illustrations. I only wish this author and illustrator pair could have done a longer Oz story, because this really is a good little story.

Never mind that I'm not counting it as "canon" in my mind...


rocketdave said...

I feel as though I might have read this book as well, though if I have, I've totally forgotten it. However, the cover is eerily familiar. If I haven't read it, I might at least have seen it before. It's kind of a simplistic image, but there's also something strikingly surreal about it at the same time that I rather like.

Sam A M said...

You said yourself in your last blog I have a copy of this book. I'm surprised you didn't ask me to do this!

J. L. Bell said...

Between the Bunnicula books and more recent novels like Totally Joe, Howe might be the most accomplished children’s author ever to write a post-Baum Oz sequel. He’s certainly up there with Eloise Jarvis McGraw in the quality of his other work. Of course, this book itself was a minor assignment.