Some of my earliest memories are of my mother reading the Oz books to me, even before I could read them myself. Later, when I learned to read, I read my mother’s battered copies over and over. As an adult, I purchased new copies and read them yet again. So I was delighted to receive a review copy of a new Oz book, The Living House of Oz, by Edward Einhorn.
Buddy lives in a very strange house. Not only the furniture, but the house itself, are alive. But Buddy doesn’t think that’s odd, because he’s lived in the house his whole life. His best friends are his bed, the dresser, the window, and all the other furniture in his room, but especially the Earl of Haberdashery, the irrepressible hat stand.
Buddy has lived in a variety of places, but he hasn’t seen much of the world outside the house, because he and his mother are in hiding. His mother Mordra is a sorceress, and it’s against the law to practice magic in Oz. For safety, Buddy isn’t allowed to stray far, and every time they are in danger, Mordra moves the house to a new part of Oz.
But Mordra can’t hide forever, and eventually she is arrested by Glinda and taken to to the Emerald City to stand trial. Buddy is determined to rescue her, and sets off for the Emerald City along with the house, all its furniture, and the Earl of Haberdashery leading the way.
Reading Edward Einhorn’s book, I am immediately transported back to Oz and back to my childhood. The Living House of Oz is a delightfully fun, imaginative, and whimsical book – a true heir to the Oz tradition, yet innovative in its own way. The Earl of Haberdashery is a delight, and a worthy addition to the Oz pantheon of characters. I hope to see more of him in future books! The story is funny and exciting and moves along quickly, yet behind the humor lies a serious question about how much power governments, even just and well-loved governments, should exercise over their subjects. Is the law banning the use of magic just?
Beyond the story, the book is well-crafted and a work of art in its own right. The illustrations by Eric Shanower add much to the story. Shanower has managed to create illustrations that fit right into the Oz history – Ozma still looks like Ozma, for example – yet add his own unique style and vision.