Today, I am thrilled to announce that it's L. Frank Baum's 164th birthday. How apropos that I would write about one of his books on the exact same day he was born!
I can think of no better note on which to begin this entry, so let's hop to it!
Here are the top ten illustrations from The Tin Woodman of Oz:
10.) Chapter 3 Head: There are a few illustrations in this and other Oz books where it appears that Neill had to work quickly. The lines are loose and fluid, and the image itself has a fresh quality to it that looks spontaneous and not too rigid or polished. I like drawings like that, as long as they're done quickly and carefully. Fortunately, Neill can strike that balance quite well.
9.) Woot in Court Dress (Before Chapter 1): Besides the hand lettering, (which, as mentioned in some of the other top ten lists, is a skill of Neill's that I especially admire,) there's a fine balance between thick and thin lines. Also, the dark vignette in the background serves to further accentuate the figure of Woot the Wanderer in his finery.
8.) Full Page Illustration From Chapter 18: Neill, always the master of expression, packs an emotional punch here. In this pre-house-dropping flashback, The Wicked Witch of the East has just beaten Nimmee Amee, (the Tin Woodman's former lover,) and is hobbling away to get some herbs for a potion with which she plans to cast a spell on her. Besides the fluid movement of the witch's figure, you can see her rage-twisted face, as well as her irate body language. This is one tension-producing illustration, but that's why I love it so much.
7.) Full Page Illustration From Chapter 10: In this picture, Tommy Quickstep, formerly a twenty-legged boy, has just been changed back into his natural, two-legged form. His body language and facial expression says it all. He was so used to having twenty legs that now he's stunned to find he has only two. It's a happy situation for him because it's what he wanted, but you can tell that he's reacting in the way most of us might react to something so magical. Just as with number eight above, Neill's mastery of expression shows itself plainly.
6.) Full Page Illustration From Chapter 6: For some illustrations, the simpler and less detailed, the better. This is especially true of so direct a subject as this. It's just a boy drinking from a giant teacup. No distractions, no diversions. Just simply the boy and the cup. And to top it all off, there's a nice little border around the edge. (I don't know why, but I like borders on book illustrations.)
5.) Color Plate From Chapter 23: The only color plate to make it to this list has earned its ranking for reasons other than its spectacular use of color (which I'll still acknowledge nonetheless.) The main reason is its powerful use of fluidity of motion. The Rainbow's Daughter is on her way back home, and by the delicate and graceful arc of her body as it follows the rainbow, (as well as the curve of the rainbow itself,) we can plainly see that's where's she's going. And all this is evident even in spite of the fact that she's pausing to give Woot a kiss on the forehead. Her affectionate gesture does nothing to detract from the sense of direction that is so apparent in this image.
4.) Full Page Illustration From Chapter 19: This image is a visual paradox! The accompanying passage describes a journey through a stretch of land that makes those who travel through it invisible, yet, in spite of the invisibility spell, there is still a picture. How can this be? Neill handles this by deciding to show us some things but not everything. It's his way of telling us that the spell is just starting to take effect. To heighten the mysterious and surreal aspect of it, he doesn't even show the grass. It's as if we're seeing a big eraser move upwards, swallowing everything in its path. So I guess it's true what they say about an image being just as powerful in what it doesn't show as in what it does.
3.) Full Page Illustration From Chapter 4: Neill's characteristic use of whimsy abounds here in this portrait of one of the balloon people known as "Loons." In just about every Oz book Neill illustrated, he always had an amusing way of portraying these funny people. Two examples that come to mind are the Scoodlers in The Road to Oz, and the Thists in The Lost Princess of Oz, both of which I've written about in previous entries. This is no exception, and, of course, I couldn't resist including it for that reason.
I do have a funny story to tell you about this picture, though. When I was in 9th grade, our English class was assigned H. G. Wells' The time Machine. There are two tribes in the book, called the Eloi and the Morlocks. I won't go into too much detail bout them, but one of the Eloi is named Weena. The book obviously didn't have any pictures in it, but somehow or other, this image was how I imagined Weena looked. When I brought The Tin Woodman in to class and showed my English teacher, she laughed. (Who wouldn't? She does have a very simple-minded look to her. Very Eloi-like...)
2.) Title Page: It's hard to imagine this sort of image being in an Oz book, as there's something about it that looks way ahead of its time. More like a sci-fi illustration from the 50s. Yet, what's just as intriguing is the idea that an oil can can stand on all fours like an animal. That's an element of distortion that you don't often see in the Oz books, or in any children's book of that time period, for that matter. And there's just a delightfully bizarre and random quality about it that it almost looks like an acid trip--fifty years before acid was a thing! Why on Earth would I not include this one??
1.) Double Page Spread From Chapter 5: There's always something to be said for the use of paradox to invoke fear. And this image is no different. What's so frightening here is that the beautiful giant woman at the right is also an unstoppably powerful witch. Her sheer omnipotence is unlimited, probably even enough to destroy the world, and yet she looks so attractive. Her beauty and cool, clam reserve spell out danger, and yet it's so eerie because most of us don't think of beautiful things as being dangerous to us. The discord between dainty refinement and lethal danger is what sends a shiver down our spines as we look at this haunting and disturbing image.
And that's it for this list. Do you agree with it? What image from The Tin Woodman of Oz was your favorite? Maybe there was one you wish I had included?
As always, please let me know in the comments section so we can get a nice conversation going.
Till next time!