Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"The Forest Monster of Oz" by Bob Evans and Chris Dulabone

Evans and Dulabone have created a very nice book to go along with the history of Oz in this book "The Forest Monster of Oz." Now for those of you only familiar with the movie, I highly recommend reading the original L. Frank Baum books and see what fun Oz really is. The original books always had some sort of lesson to be learned and a very unique wit and humor. With the "Forest Monster..." Evans and Dulabone carry on that torch with skill.

In this book we see the return of the giant spider that was defeated by the Cowardly Lion in the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and his transformation to good. Here is the first thing that if you are only familiar with the movie you miss out on. Basically, the forest monster, the giant spider, was destroyed by the Cowardly lion in chapter 21 of the Wizard of Oz book. Evans and Dulabone bring him back to life as can only be done in fairy tales and comic books, and they do it in a manner that it is believeable, maybe a better word here is acceptable. In that not that you would really believe a spider can come back to life but that this one was magical to begin with. This forest monster is seeking revenge on the Cowardly Lion and is now wreaking havoc by sapping the energy of all the animals of the Lunechien Forest.

Lunechien residents, including the simply named Elephant, Tweaty (a bird), Nibbles (a mouse) and two owls, seek the aid of the newly ascendant Ozma to defeat the monster. In the quest to overcome the spider, we meet an interesting array of Ozites: the Saber-Toothed Light Bulbs (just picture that), the marshmallow inhabitants of a marsh kingdom, and the warring Schnozzles and Stinkfeet (a very funny war between those that stink and those that have sensitive noses).

The book is also laced with puns and wry humor as is traditional with the Oz books. For example, a tiger speculates that the spider's monstrous size may be attributable to "the humans' constant littering, or maybe a military experiment gone haywire". After a careful build-up, however, the primary conflict with the monster is resolved. In the process, Ozma is confronted with an interesting moral dilemma, on the caliber of her ethical decision not to battle her enemies in The Emerald City of Oz.

Throughout this book we are taught through the many campaigns and confrontations the ideals of acceptance, individuality, and multiculturalism.

In keeping alive the humor, wit and sweet characterizations of this original American "fairy tale"-- they not only pull it off, but there is an individuality too that's very hard to describe in "The Forest Monster of Oz". The "courage to be an individual" is well taught.

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