What an odd children’s book!!!! A transgender heroine, the only competent army is female, but also there is a weird feminist army of flibbertigibbets. Oh, and a lot of puns.
Let’s start with Baum, the author. Two important things to know going into this book. First, he wrote the Oz books in a time when children’s literature was all intended to have “morals”. Lessons about being good little girls and boys, about Christianity, about all kinds of blah blah blah. He wrote the Oz books saying “nope, NO MORALS!!!! Just fun silly fantasy adventures where nothing really bad happens.” So all our modern attempts to put “meaning” on the books are directly against his intentions. Sure, he pokes some harmless fun at silly adults and their silly ways, but no greater meaning than that.
Second thing, important for this book in particular, Baum was a very vocal super of the suffrage movement. His mother-in-law was one of the leading lights in the fight, his wife supported her, and Baum himself wrote loads of editorials and things in support of Votes for Women.
So, this book is FASCINATING!!!!! You think he is poking fun at suffragettes, but he can’t be, because he WAS a suffragette. So I guess he is poking fun at people who are poking fun at suffragettes? There are the silly fake feminists who just want to avoid household chores. And then the dignified “real” women who have an army and rule countries and are very wise and competent. And most of all, there is no moral, so don’t try to make your head hurt by looking for them.
What do you think about how Tip’s gender change was handled? Looking at it as an adult, I have lots of thoughts. But when I first read this book at age 7, I had no thoughts! Boy and girl were very firm identities in my mind, but I also had no issues with the idea of waking up one day and being the other one. Why not? It wasn’t confusing or scary to me. Made total logical sense.
What did you think about Jack Pumpkinhead calling Tip “Father”? Another bit that made total sense to me as a kid! A father is the person who is in charge of you/made you. So sure, the strange made up man Jack could call the little boy “father”.
Did you find the book overall dull or pleasant? When I was 7 I just gobbled up these books, totally addicted. Rereading it, I was surprised at how dull it was! There’s just no high stakes, it is all little jokes and little things happening. I suppose that is why I liked it as a kid, nothing scary, just burbling along and enjoying.