The Giant Garden of Oz

The Giant Garden of Oz

by Eric Shanower

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486798356
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 11/18/2015
Edition description: First Edition, First
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range: 9 Years

About the Author


Eisner Award–winning author Eric James Shanower is an American writer and illustrator of comics. He is best known for his Oz novels and comics and for his ongoing retelling of the Trojan War, Age of Bronze.

Read an Excerpt

The Giant Garden of Oz


By Eric Shanower

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2015 Eric Shanower
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-80806-2



CHAPTER 1

The Farm


DOROTHY GALE gripped the metal arm of the seat as the red wagon bumped down the grassy hill side. The girl gazed at the wide, bowl-shaped valley below, filled with golden afternoon light. In the center of the valley a wooden farmhouse, a bright red barn, and several smaller buildings stood in a cluster. The long ride was nearly over.

A yellow hen fluttered a wing against Dorothy's right shoulder, struggling to keep her perch on the back of the wagon seat. "Hmm," said the hen whose name was Billina. "Nothing special as far as I can see. It looks like a regular, old-fashioned, made-in-the-USA type of farm. Why your aunt and uncle wanted to move out here after enjoying the comforts of the Emerald City is beyond me."

Dorothy shrugged. "Uncle Henry says that after eighty-some years of living a life of luxury, a body just feels the need to work the earth again."

As the wagon reached the valley floor, Dorothy clicked her tongue as a signal for the sawhorse to pull the wagon faster. The wooden horse switched his tail, which was merely a branch growing from the rear of his log body, and increased his speed slightly.

The wheels rolled smoothly along the dirt road that led across the valley. Fragrant fields of earth spread out in corrugations on either side as if the teeth of an immense comb had parted the earth and swept long strokes over the valley floor. Dorothy knew the fields had been sown, but the young shoots of barley had yet to poke their bright green faces up through the surface. Beyond the valley the blue-green hills of the Munchkin Country rolled off and away into the hazy blue distance of the Land of Oz.

Dorothy's little black dog, Toto, crawled from beneath the wagon seat. He cocked one ear at Dorothy, gave a yip, and propped his forefeet on the wagon's dashboard. His stubby tail wagged. He sniffed the air and pointed his sharp nose toward the center of the valley.

As the wagon approached the white farmhouse, Toto barked. A thin woman, her gray hair shiny and neat, rushed out of the house onto the front porch, screen door clacking behind her.

"Aunt Em!" called Dorothy. She stood up in the wagon, then clutched the seat to keep from pitching forward as the Sawhorse halted.

Aunt Em stepped from the porch. She stretched her arms toward her niece, smiling, the fine lines in her face spreading from her eyes like rays.

Dorothy jumped out of the wagon. Toto raced past her and plowed into Aunt Em's long gingham skirt. He sprawled on the grass, but an instant later he was up, dancing and barking. Aunt Em folded Dorothy into her embrace.

"Dorothy," said Aunt Em, "I've been watching for you all afternoon. Here you are at last." She kissed the girl's forehead.

"I'm so glad to see you, Aunt Em," said Dorothy. "How is farm life after all this time?"

"A farm in Oz is quite a sight easier than one in Kansas," said Aunt Em. "But the reason I'm so happy today is 'cause my niece has finally come to visit!" The woman drew a deep breath, then took notice of Toto.

"Sakes, Toto," said Aunt Em as she bent to ruffle his shaggy coat. "I haven't heard you bark that loud since ... well, since I don't recall when. And here's Billina, too." Aunt Em knelt and extended one finger to the hen who gripped it with a claw and shook it.

"Where's Uncle Henry?" asked Dorothy.

"Sakes," said Aunt Em slowly straightening up. "I was s'posed to ring for him as soon as I saw you approaching. He's in the barn."

Before the woman could tug the cord of a bell fixed to one of the porch posts, a gray-bearded man trotted around the corner of the house, carrying a pitchfork. Wisps of hair clung to his head like the wisps of straw that clung to his shirt and to his dusty overalls. Dorothy ran to him and hugged him. Uncle Henry dropped the pitchfork, put one arm tenderly around his niece, and smoothed her hair with a rough hand.

"Hey, there, Dorothy," he said.

Dorothy looked into his light blue eyes. "You look just like a farmer again, Uncle Henry."

He grinned, then gave Toto and Billina each a salute.

"Come along, everyone," said Aunt Em. "Supper will be on soon."

Uncle Henry strode to the red wagon and pulled out a carpetbag which contained Dorothy's clothes. Dorothy directed the Sawhorse to return to the Emerald City with the red wagon. "But be sure to be back here in a week to pick us up," she said, then followed the others into the farmhouse.

The house was small, but clean and well-built. Most of the furniture was simple — sturdy oak and chestnut — and the braided wool rugs on the wooden floors were dyed warm colors. But the living room chairs were upholstered in velvet and the front doorknobs were large emeralds.

Two portraits hung above the living room mantel. One of a beautiful girl with scarlet poppies in her hair was entitled "Ozma, Royal Ruler of Oz." The other, titled "Princess Dorothy," was a portrait of Dorothy herself wearing her jeweled coronet.

Aunt Em went to the kitchen to see to supper and Billina joined her to chat. Uncle Henry showed Dorothy and Toto through a short hall to a small bedroom.

The setting sun flooded the room with a rosy glow, coloring even the shadows a deep maroon. In one corner stood a bed with precisely turned-down covers. Next to the bed was a basket for Toto. A wooden box packed with straw for Billina lay at the bed's foot.

"This is your room, Dorothy," said Uncle Henry. "It'll be here whenever you want it." He set the carpetbag down onto a chest of drawers. "Come on along while I finish up in the barn."

Outside into the brilliant light of sunset, Uncle Henry picked up his pitchfork. He led Dorothy past blueberry bushes growing at the side of the house. Toto trotted after them. Ahead, the big, red barn glowed as the sun hovered over the western hills. From the open hayloft drifted the dry, toasty aroma of hay. A bright blue ox cart stood just inside the barn door. Toto ran in circles in the barnyard, chasing his tail and raising little puffs of dust.

Inside the barn the air still smelled hot, though cool, blue shadows draped the heavy beams of the ceiling and loft. Bits of straw and feed littered the cracks between the cobblestones. Harnesses covered the wall next to the wagon. Uncle Henry hung the pitchfork on pegs and tossed a pair of gloves into a wheelbarrow.

He pointed to rows of equipment arranged neatly on the wall and along the stone floor. "The Wizard of Oz helped us develop a lot of devices so two old folks like your aunt and me could run this farm. See that plow? Turns rocks aside automatically — plowing's like slicing butter with a warm knife. And these scythes work by themselves when I recite a magic rhyme. We'll see how they do come harvest time. The plumbing in the house and the irrigation system for the fields are magic, too. The Wizard's still working on seed that'll grow hay already baled. He hopes to have it ready for next year's planting."

"It's all so much nicer than when we lived in Kansas," said Dorothy.

"This isn't Kansas," said Uncle Henry. "This is Oz, so Em and me figured to set things up the way we like them. And this is only the start. The silo's going up right next to the barn — got to get it finished before harvest time. Over there I'm planning to build a hen house and see if any of Billina's daughters will come to lay for us. We want to find a few goats, too, so we can make cheese. The goats'll be company for Snowball, our milk cow. She and my ox team are visiting friends on another farm, but they'll be back next week, so you'll meet 'em then."

"It's all so wonderful," said Dorothy.

"Let me show you what's really wonderful about this farm," said Uncle Henry.

Dorothy followed him out of the barn, into the sunset and across the cow pasture. Their shadows stretched over the barley fields, making long lines on the valley floor. Uncle Henry stepped from the pasture into the soil of a recently sown field, his boot heels sinking a little. He squatted and scooped up a handful of dark earth. He rolled it in his palm, held it to his nose, then held it up to Dorothy.

"Smell this," he said.

Dorothy drew a deep breath. The earth smelled moist and spicy and alive, so thick and delicious that she nearly wanted to eat a mouthful of it.

"Richest soil I've ever farmed," Uncle Henry said. "There's nothing like this Munchkin soil for growing things. I'm more grateful to Ozma than I can say for giving Em and me this valley."

"I'm glad," said Dorothy. "It makes me wish you'd started this farm long ago."

"Dorothy, let me tell you something," said Uncle Henry. He crumbled the earth between his fingers. "Em and I are grateful to you, darlin', for bringing us to Oz when we lost the Kansas farm. You saved our lives. But life in the Emerald City is different ... easy ... easy to just go along and ignore parts of yourself that ask for something a little bit more difficult."

Uncle Henry looked at the sun sliding behind the hills. "So I lived the easy life — and it was good — but after a while I looked around at all the fancy clothes and jewels and things, and they just didn't mean much to me anymore. Then I looked at myself and what did I see? A farmer. Farming is a part of me, what I was raised to do, what I know. But I saw that I was scared to go back to it — scared of losing a farm all over again. Then I took a wider look around. I saw myself living in the Land of Oz. I lived in a place where anything honest and true can happen if you want it bad enough. And I knew that I needed this farm."

Uncle Henry stood.

"I wasn't sure what Em would say, but naturally I had to tell her. She said, 'Henry, when I married you I knew that I wanted to be a farmer's wife and you were the farmer whose wife I wanted to be, and my feelings haven't changed one bit.'"

Uncle Henry stepped, grinning, onto the grass. He spread his arms wide as if trying to embrace the whole valley. "So here we are," he said. "After all these years I'm a farmer again."

Dorothy threw her arms around him, pressing her face into his shirt, which smelled of earth and sun and sweat. Toto ran in circles, barking. Uncle Henry closed his arms around his niece as the last fiery edge of the sun slipped behind the hills.

Hand in hand they walked back toward the house through the fading light of evening. Delicious smells wafted from the kitchen. Uncle Henry went to clean himself up before supper. Dorothy and Toto went out to the backyard garden to pick two tomatoes for Aunt Em to slice for supper.

The plants in the garden were thriving. Dorothy saw row upon row of carrots, lettuce, peas, beets, and more. The vegetables that grew among the layers of leaves and stalks were large and well-shaped. Greens sprouted from the carefully weeded soil and pushed high into the air. Pods hung heavily. Vines twisted thickly along stakes. Despite an obvious attempt to keep the garden neat and regulated, the profusion of plants was almost a confusion.

Toto barked twice from somewhere inside a tangled green mass. He had found the tomato plants. Luscious red globes hung from the fibrous stems. How big they were! Dorothy knelt and searched until she found two of the biggest tomatoes, each larger than Toto's head. Even in the half light their lustrous color made Dorothy's mouth water. She pulled each tomato from the vine and, cradling them against her chest, went back into the house.

Aunt Em washed and sliced the tomatoes as Uncle Henry, freshly bathed, set the big, round dining table.

Supper was delicious. Besides a thick vegetable stew and the sliced tomatoes, there was bread from a magic loaf that, no matter how many slices were cut from it, remained as large as ever. There was a cheese that was similar to the bread. No matter how much cheese was sliced, there was always as much as before. Dorothy was accustomed to this type of food, however, for it is familiar to most Oz households. There were homemade preserves, and butter Aunt Em had churned that morning. The preserves came from a market held once a week in a Munchkin village some distance away. Dessert was raspberry shortcake served in crystal bowls. Toto enjoyed this especially.

As soon as the last bite of shortcake was eaten, the sink filled itself with soapy water and the dishes hopped in and began to wash themselves.

Aunt Em giggled. "Your uncle and I have returned to the country, Dorothy," she said, "but there are a few city conveniences we haven't given up."

That night Dorothy lay in bed drifting slowly into sleep. A warm breeze caressed the curtains at the windows, carrying the chirping of insects from the fields. Toto breathed steadily, curled in the basket beside the bed. Now and then came a stir from the yellow hen whose head was tucked snugly beneath one wing.

"How wonderful it would be to live on a farm again," thought Dorothy. "Course, I couldn't leave all my friends in the Emerald City, but I could split my time between here and there. It wouldn't make much difference. In a land where no one grows older and no one can ever die, I've got all the time in the world."

It was dark when a sharp bark from Toto woke her. The bed seemed to rock beneath her like a boat coasting up a wave. Dorothy sat up, but everything was still. Starlight fell through the open windows onto Toto who stood rigidly in the center of the room.

"What is it, Toto?" she whispered.

He pointed his nose toward the open window and whined.

Dorothy shivered in her thin pajamas. Billina lay silently sleeping in her box. Dorothy slid from bed and tiptoed bare foot across the cool floor to look out the window.

Thousands of stars in the deep blue night cast a silver sheen upon fields and hills. Beneath the window the vegetable garden was bathed in starlight. The tangles of vines and leaves that covered the backyard seemed even larger and more unruly than earlier. The breeze was cooler, coming now and again in faint gusts. As Dorothy leaned from the window, something brushed the side of her face. Surprised, she drew back a little, but she saw it had only been a wide blade of some tall plant that grew beside the window.

"There's nothing out there, Toto," she said.

Toto gave a soft yip and returned to his basket to curl up. Dorothy slipped back into bed.

She woke to the contented cackling of Billina as the hen laid her morning egg. Milky dawn light trickled through the windows.

Toto sat up and yawned. Dorothy jumped out of bed to gather Billina's egg. She stopped. The growing light silhouetted several tall shapes just outside the windows. What were they? Trees?

"Em! Come quick!" Uncle Henry's voice rang through the house. Toto dashed out of the bedroom. Dorothy sprang after him, Billina close behind.

Aunt Em, already dressed, burst out of her bedroom as Dorothy rushed past. They hurried through the living room and out the open front door. Uncle Henry stood like granite on the front porch.

"Henry, what —" began Aunt Em. But no one needed to ask why he had cried out. The answer surrounded them.

CHAPTER 2

The Garden


THE HOUSE seemed to have been transported to the center of a dense jungle. Gigantic leaves waved in the morning breeze like huge fans. Green trunks covered with fine hair rose higher than the roof of the house. Vines as thick as Dorothy's leg wound everywhere. The rising sun revealed parts of smooth red spheres nestled in the leafy growth. Farther off rose a jumble of small hills striped green and white.

A huge hairy leaf rested on the porch rail and nearly touched the floor of the porch. Toto sniffed at it. Then he took the edge between his jaws and shook it. Uncle Henry stepped to the edge of the porch and crouched to examine something. The others gathered behind him.

A ray of light broke through the leaves, illuminating a big half circle of orange that extended from beneath the porch.

"Carrot," said Uncle Henry. "It's the top of a giant carrot."

Dorothy moved down the porch looking over the rail. "Here, too, Uncle Henry," she said. "There's another over here! And another, and another! It's a whole row of carrots right under the porch. I think it goes on, but I can't see much more — there are too many leaves and vines and ..." Dorothy stopped. She turned to look at Uncle Henry who turned to look at her.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Giant Garden of Oz by Eric Shanower. Copyright © 2015 Eric Shanower. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

1. The Farm, 11,
2. The Garden, 25,
3. The Cottage, 37,
4. Imogene, 47,
5. The Storm, 63,
6. Back to the Valley, 80,
7. Underground, 99,
8. Old Magda, 111,
9. Buried, 123,
10. Meanwhile, 132,
11. The Choice, 144,
12. The Antidote, 159,
13. Peace at Last, 173,

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