I recently started reading The Hungry Tiger of Oz, the twentieth book in the Oz series, by Ruth Plumly Thompson and illustrated by John R. Neill. As with the last few, it’s been years since I read this one. It’s been a while since I have read most of Thompson’s books, since I generally prefer Baum’s to hers. That said, I am enjoying reading the whole series again and I am enjoying getting to just explore these stories again. Even if the terminology grates on me sometimes (her constant references to “celebrities” really annoys me), she does have some interesting new ideas and interesting ways to play with old characters.
Like many of Thompson’s Oz books, this one starts in a random tiny magical kingdom that we’ve never seen before (this time in a corner of Ev instead of a corner of Oz, probably so that she didn’t have to deal with the pesky nobody-can-die condition of Oz). The king is as crazy as most kings in Thompson’s version of this fantasy world and his advisors are as corrupt and deferential as well. This time, the king imprisons everyone who annoys him, which is most of his population, and responds to the concern about overpopulation in the prisons by deciding to find a way to kill his prisoners instead of rethinking the whole thing.
Clearly Thompson had a formula at this point and is sticking to it, but she does later branch out into some genuinely interesting stories again, so I won’t hold it against her. The Hungry Tiger has always been an interesting and somewhat problematic character, so it seems reasonable to set a book around exploring his struggles with wanting to eat people and being too kind to actually do so. The problem is that Baum wrote a short story with the Hungry Tiger and the Cowardly Lion that explored the idea much better than this book seems to be doing so far.
I love John R. Neill’s illustrations and am enjoying them in this book as well. His art is fantastic and filled with details that are fun to look at!
I may not be loving this book so far, but it’s more than entertaining enough to keep reading and I am glad that I am revisiting it, as well as the rest of the series. Even if Thompson doesn’t always do what I want her to with the stories, she always does interesting things, and Oz is nothing if not interesting!