“Stop!” cried the King’s head. “Let us keep these stories straight. You said you were looking for a Princess. What Princess?”Ruth Plumly Thompson, Grampa in Oz
I recently finished Grampa in Oz by Ruth Plumly Thompson and illustrated by John R. Neill. This is the eighteenth book in the Oz series and the fourth book Thompson wrote for the series. It’s clear that Thompson has her feet under her at this point and has really and truly given up trying to make the book sound like Baum’s books. She’s created and embraced her own terms and conventions at this point and the flavor of the stories is very different.
In some ways, this change in the series sort of annoys me, since I like Baum’s style much better than Thompson’s. I like that he doesn’t constantly call the characters “celebrities” (which for whatever reason really grates on me) and the child characters, rather than the wise adult adviser characters, almost always direct the action. Here, Thompson really does have Grampa leading things and making decisions, while the young hero, Tatters, takes a decidedly backseat.
On the other hand, it’s nice to see Thompson embracing her own voice and her own quirky humor (as much as Baum liked a good pun, Thompson blows his use of them out of the water). She creates some great characters here. Bill the weather vane rooster from Chicago (who was blown to Oz by a storm, raising the question of how often people and things are transported to Oz by natural disasters and nobody notices) is a fun, quirky character with a distinct voice and personality. I hope he returns for future adventures! While I prefer Baum’s style to Thompson’s, I liked this book of hers better than the ones before because it does feel like she’s found her style. It just happens to be filled with more European fairy tale elements and groan-worthy names than Baum’s was!
There, on a bed of softest moss, surrounded by a rose blown hedge, lay the loveliest little maiden you could ever imagine!Ruth Plumly Thompson, Grampa in Oz
The illustrations are as fun and quirky as ever and I love how pretty and graceful Neill’s fairy girls are. Even Dorothy’s dress, which I think Thompson intended to be the iconic blue and white gingham one from the first book, is a charming and fashionable little girl’s dress with pretty flutter sleeves.
It sort of feels like Dorothy was shoehorned into this story for the sole purpose of including one of the familiar “celebrity” characters, which is slightly annoying. Still, as random characters to throw in go, Dorothy isn’t a bad choice. She is able to just go along with the adventure and marvel at the wonders without inserting herself into the actual plot much at all.
Overall, this is not one of my favorite Oz books, but it’s fun and definitely incorporates some interesting new elements and characters to the series. It’s worth reading for the quirky characters like Bill and for the interesting and surprisingly far-flung journey.
- Ruth Plumly Thompson on Wikipedia
- John R. Neill’s Official Online Gallery
- The International Wizard of Oz Club