[Some spoilers included.]
This is actually a review of the book published in 1929. "Jack Pumpkinhead of Oz" is the 23rd book in the Oz series and it is also the most recent one that I have read. Not to brag, but I have actually read all 23 books up to this point, and I really do like them. I mean... sure... there are some duds in the bunch, but I am happy to say that this one was one of the better ones.
Now, if Jack Pumpkinhead sounds familiar, he was featured in the Disney film "Return to Oz." That was actually a very good representation of him. He is rather cobbled together with sticks with a pumpkinhead shoved onto a spike at his top. The poor fellow is barely put together well, and he does often fall to pieces when jostled too much.
By the 23rd book, he is no better constructed, but his personality has changed a bit. He tends to be more snarky when he talks. This is actually the fault of the author Ruth Plumly Thompson. Jack is not very smart. He comes across as a person with special needs. But when Ruth took over the character, she made him lean towards sarcasm. Granted that the sarcasm seemed based in ignorance, it still seemed off the beaten path of what L. Frank Baum had intended for the character.
Nevertheless, I love this book. Although rare, it was a boy traveling to Oz this time. His name was Peter, and he had been there before a couple books back. Ruth always respected boy protagonist and did not surround them with girly things. Generally Peter's plotlines had more to do with fighting and war-themed quests.
The villain in this story, Mogodore, was one of the few who actually managed to conquer the Emerald City in the series' history. It was up to Peter and Jack to save Oz from this man's treachery.
Along the way, Peter and Jack came across a couple of other fun characters. My favorite was Sniff the Iffin. Sniff was actually a griffin that got so scarred that he lost his "Gr" and so just became an Iffin. That pun was taken a bit further in that, because he was an Iffin, he would always ask, "What if this, and what if that?" And so he became something of a philosopher. I actually love this character. Like deeply. I deeply love him. He was such a sweetheart.
Another fun character was Belfaygor of Bourne who had accidently cursed himself so that his beard would never stop growing. It was so bad that if he would ever sleep within a room, the beard would fill the room overnight and suffocate him by morning. Throughout the story, he was constantly clipping at it nonstop. The characters charmingly found multiple uses for this beard such as making bridges and ladders out of it.
"Jack Pumpkinhead of Oz" is a solid Ruth Plumly Thompson Oz book. Despite Jack's unfortunate snark, he was still very entertaining. This goes down as one of my favorite Oz books, and it concludes wonderfully as well. If you are interested in reading it, a lot of the later Oz books are a bit difficult to come by. At this point, I would just find them anyway you can. Enjoy.
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