Jackson Reviews the 2nd Oz Movie & 3rd Oz Book

After my six-year-old son Jackson and I finished reading Ozma of Oz, the third Oz book, my wife and I decided to rent of the second Oz movie. I remembered not being as happy with Return to Oz (it lost the fun and wonder of the first movie), but I wanted to see what Jackson thought seeing characters like Jack Pumpkinhead and Tik Tok on the screen.

As with his previous reviews, what follows are Jackson’s own words, with my comments and questions in italics.


In the book they went to Ev. The Nome King captured the royal family of Ev. There was only one person left to rule, a princess. She had more than one head. But there was one of her heads that liked to do bad things.

I liked that in the movie they made it in Oz still instead of bringing it to somewhere else.  Instead of washing up on the beach, they washed up in the Deadly Desert, and they had to step on Nomes to get across. (Nomes can move to anything that’s stone!)

In the movie everybody turned  to stone, and the princess wasn’t the princess of Ev with the different heads, it was Mombi!

I didn’t like it (in the movie) that the Nome King took over the Emerald City and turned everybody to stone, and Mombi took all those heads from the dancing girls, and then they were headless. The wheelers looked really scary. In the book Tik Tok knew they were just playing to make people be scared of them, but they couldn’t harm anybody because they just had wheels.

So what did you like about the movie?

I liked that they had the ruby slippers back, because they don’t have to be lost forever, so Dorothy can get back to Kansas.

I liked the ending. Actually, the second movie, I thought the cowardly lion looked more like a lion. The first movie didn’t look at all like a lion. But why did they make the Tin Woodman so thin? He was a Thin Woodman!

At the end, Tik Tok looked like C3PO because they polished him. That was silly.

I didn’t like the doctors. They weren’t doing the right thing. They were toasting the patients’ brains! But luckily they got arrested.

What did you like about the book?

I like the Nome King in the book better, because  in the book he just sent out his army to fight, and then the Scarecrow got out his eggs and threw them at the Nome King. But in the movie, he came into the ornament room and started eating them! But he only got part of the Gump, and when he tried to eat Jack Pumpkinhead, Billina laid an egg in Jack Pumpkinhead’s head, and the egg went into his (the Nome King’s) mouth and he crumpled into pieces!

I liked that that they freed the royal family by Billina guessing the ornaments right. I liked that everybody was free. Billina was the last one to free everybody.

The Marvelous Land of Oz, Reviewed by my Son (Age 6)

My son and I just finished reading The Marvelous Land of Oz, the second of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books. One of Jackson’s first questions after we finished was whether we were going to do another review 🙂

Just like last time, I asked questions to guide the review, but what follows (except for my italicized comments) are entirely his own words.


The Army of Revolt took over the Emerald City. The big mission in The Marvelous Land of Oz is to find Ozma and make her the rightful Queen of the Emerald City. The characters are Tip, Jack Pumpkinhead, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Woggle-Bug, and the Gump. The Gump is made out of a broom, a head, sofas, and palm leaves that the Tin Woodman cut and could have gotten killed seven times and imprisoned for life!

This is the first Oz book where people from Oz go outside of the land of Oz. They end up in a jackdaws’ nest, and the Scarecrow loses his straw because he uses it to protect Jack Pumpkinhead and the Woggle-Bug. He has to get stuffed with money!

Several people had warned me about reading this book because of the boy turning into a girl, saying this could be upsetting. So I asked Jackson what he thought about the ending.

I really wanted to see how Princess Ozma got hidden, and she wasn’t even hidden! She was in the body of a boy named Tip. I was surprised. I liked that Tip was Ozma because then the Sawhorse and Jack Pumpkinhead were still able to be in the Emerald City. … ! (Punctuation dictated by Jackson.)

I didn’t like the part where Mombi said she was going to turn Tip into a marble statue and make Jack Pumpkinhead work for her. I didn’t like the Army of Revolt because they took over the Emerald City.

I thought in the beginning Tip was a little mean because he wanted to scare Mombi, but in the end he was nicer. He punished the bad guys and let the Sawhorse and Jack Pumpkinhead stay.

I like both books the same. Everybody should read them.

Below: Jackson’s illustration of The Scarecrow in the Jackdaws’ nest.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Reviewed by My Son (Age 6)

My son Jackson and I just finished reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, so I asked if he’d do a review I could share with my readers here. I asked some questions to help him along, but everything that follows (except my italicized comments) is his own words.

There are spoilers, but given that the book is more than a century old, I’m not going to worry about putting anything behind a cut.


The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is about a girl named Dorothy who is carried by a tornado to the land of Oz and then meets a Scarecrow, a Cowardly Lion, and a Tin Woodman, and kills both the wicked witches. And then she has to get back to Kansas but it turns out that the Wizard of Oz, he isn’t even a  wizard! He’s just a humbug who was carried by a balloon when he was a balloonist.

What I don’t like is that the winged monkeys didn’t give a second chance to Dorothy (the second time she summoned them)  since they couldn’t go out of the Land of Oz. (Jackson is big on fairness.) And I don’t like the Hammer-head Slinky-neck guys, when they had to use their last time to call the monkeys. And I don’t like when the silver shoes come off in the desert, because then Dorothy can’t see Oz again!

Here’s what I did like. Okay, I like that they made the Lion the king of the beasts and I also like that the Wicked Witch that they were going to kill had all those guys, because then I found out that there were black bees! I liked the black bees because I used to not know that there were such things as black bees and now I found out.

I liked at the ending that Dorothy’s companions came to rule over them. The lion ruled over the beasts after he killed the spider thing, and the Scarecrow ruled over the land of Oz, and the Tin Woodman ruled over the Winkies.

There’s only one thing that surprised me — that the Hammer-Heads could shoot their heads out with their necks; they had Slinky-necks!

Oz helped me go to sleep because then I had other things to think about and see in my mind instead of scary things so I didn’t wake up and have to open my eyes … ! . (Punctuation dictated by Jackson.)

I like the book and the movie both, because in the book there were surprise chapters, and in the movie they gave her ruby slippers, and I liked the ruby slippers better than silver shoes.

I think everybody should read this book because it’s really fun.

Art Quest and Oz

I have looked at so many fantasy art images this week that tiny dragons have burned themselves into my retinas. The original piece I had been looking at for the Kitemaster collection is by Jenna Vincent. Click the thumbnail for a larger view, and check out some of her other work while you’re there.

This pic doesn’t actually match the details of the story “Kitemaster,” but I think it captures the whimsical tone of the collection.

Sadly for me, this was a personal commission, and the rights weren’t available. But I wanted to link y’all to her site and this pic anyway, ’cause I like it.

I had been hoping to get the rights to use a completed piece, because I’m a cheap bastard and don’t have the budget most New York publishers do, but I’m also very picky. At this point, I’ve e-mailed another artist about doing a cover image on commission, and we’ll see what happens.

Once again, this process is giving me new reasons to appreciate my publisher. I’m sure they’ve got a Rolodex of potential artists ready to go, but taking the time to go through that list, match up the artist’s style to the book in question, negotiate the work … it’s more hours of behind-the-scene work that I don’t have to worry about, freeing me to do more important things like catch the season finales of Criminal Minds and Castle.


On a totally different note, I’ve been reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to my six-year-old, and he’s loving it. So am I. This is a big book for him, and I’m reading it from my iPhone, so there are no pictures. But we go through 2-3 chapters every night, and he’s already told me he wants to read the second book when we’re done.

(He was especially impressed when I mentioned that a friend of mine had actually written two three Oz books. That was much cooler than those goblin and princess books Daddy writes.)

I love that he’ll put the Nintendo DS down and hurry to get ready for bed so we can read. I love that he talks about the book, about the golden cap that controls the flying monkeys and the Tin Woodman’s heart and whether it would be better to have a brain or a heart. I love that his big sister stopped reading her own book last night to listen.

I want to say something like, “Behold the power of books,” but that would be cheesy. It’s true though. I don’t know how long it will last, but for now, we’re spending our evenings on the couch together, me reading and scrolling through the pages on my phone while he wiggles and squirms and listens, and it’s wonderful.

iPhone Review (and a Christmas Song)

I’ve had the iPhone 4, hereafter known as Shinynewphone, for a few months now.  I figured it was time to describe the pros and cons of the new toy.  Overall, I’m quite happy.  Details beneath the cut, along with a sample photo and a video of my son singing Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.


This is What Asperger’s Looks Like

During the sexual harassment discussion, one commenter said certain elements of SF/F fandom simply lack social graces, and you’re going to run into these drooling Asperger types.  It’s not their fault. All you can really do is avoid them and try to warn others.

I’m not linking to the comment, because several people have already confronted the commenter (including an excellent post by Mrissa here).  I’m certain it wasn’t intended to be hurtful.  It’s the kind of comment I’ve heard many times, and I know it’s not malicious.

But it hurts.

I’m having a hard time being my normal, “reasonable” self about this.  My son was diagnosed with Asperger’s early this year.  He’s high-functioning, but there was no question about the diagnosis.  It’s been months, and I’m still adjusting and learning.  But I know one thing — my son is Fucking Awesome.

Let me show you one example of what Asperger’s looks like:

That’s my son Jackson in his Halloween costume, vanquishing one of our neighbors.  (Everyone knows the gorilla is the natural enemy of the Italian plumber, right?)

Jackson does struggle socially.  I remember picking him up from preschool last year, asking how his day went, and fighting tears when he said, “Nobody wants to play with me.”  Most days I’d find him playing by himself in a corner. He has meltdowns when routines get broken without warning.  He can also be overly physical and affectionate sometimes, and we’ve had to work with him on that, but he’s learning where the boundaries are.

He struggles physically as well.  He’s 5 and a half, and still can’t ride a bike.  He’s in physical and occupational therapy every week.  He runs laps in the house most nights.  Lately, he’s started whipping his hands around as a form of self-stimulation.

He’s Fucking Awesome.

He’s in kindergarten now, and he’s making progress.  He’s starting to learn how to get along with other kids.  We visited some friends a few weeks ago, and he spent four hours playing with their five-year-old, with only a few minor, typical squabbles.  I don’t know how to explain how much that meant to me.

The harasser from WFC?  That was someone who knows to behave one way in public and another when he has a woman alone.  That’s someone with social awareness.  Hell, many abusers and harassers have very advanced social skills.  I remember the first time I sat in on a batterer’s group, and how terrifyingly charming these guys were.  These are not people who simply lack social skills or don’t know how to behave due to autistic spectrum disorders.

I’ve heard it before.  Cons and fandom are full of Aspies who can’t communicate save through Monty Python jokes.  Really?  Because Asperger’s Syndrome is an actual diagnosis, with fairly strict criteria that include more than simple social awkwardness.  Like sensory issues.  (Jackson sometimes asks me to squeeze him, because the physical pressure is comforting.)

I had a rough time in school.  My social skills sucked.  But I didn’t have Asperger’s.  I was just a geek.  Smart and awkward and doing my best to get through the day without having my books knocked out of my hands.

I’m not sure when or why it became “cool” for people in fandom to self-diagnose as Aspies, or to misuse that label as shorthand for the awkward, unwashed masses, but I wish it would stop.  It’s hurtful.  It reinforces attitudes and false stereotypes that make life harder for those who actually have autistic spectrum disorders.

My son has Asperger’s.  He’s not some filthy, drooling fool.  I don’t believe he’s going to grow up to become a harasser.  He’s a brilliant, energetic, loving little kid.  He remembers passages from books and movies, and can recite them word for word months later.  He loves superheroes and Mario and Transformers, and watching animated LEGO videos on YouTube.  He’s excited about coming to his first convention with his Daddy this month.

And he’s Fucking Awesome.

Autism Thoughts

Reminder: Tomorrow is the last day to bid in Brenda Novak’s Auction for Diabetes Research.  I’ve donated an autographed copy of Stepsister Scheme and a critique of a novel chapter or short story.  Go forth and browse!  There’s a ton of great stuff up for bid.


I mentioned a few weeks ago that my son (alias: Jackson) met his school’s criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder.  We had the IEP (individualized education program), which went wonderfully.  He’ll be in a mainstream kindergarten class next year, but we spent ninety minutes talking about his behaviors and some of the things they’ll put in place to help out.  I expect next year to present new challenges, but I’m cautiously hopeful.

One thing I’ve noticed about myself: I can say Jackson is on the Autistic Spectrum.  I can say he has Aspergers Syndrome.  But I have a really hard time saying he has autism.  My brain just rebels at that point.  (I edited this paragraph slightly for clarity.)

Part of this is probably the evolving nature of the diagnosis.  When I first learned about autism, there was a clearer line between autism and Asperger’s.  My sense is that this is changing, moving more toward the broader autistic spectrum diagnosis.  Mostly though, it’s just hard for me to accept that label for my son.  One of the things I’m working on in my brain…

We’ve looked into getting services to help him over the summer.  But of course, autism isn’t covered by our insurance.  We’ve been looking into one program that has been highly recommended; ten sessions would be a total of $3000.

Three grand.  For ten sessions.

(Editorial aside: to the woman who responded to my thoughts on health care a few months back by saying I was an elitest, lazy deadbeat, please consider this a formal invitation to kiss my ass.)

We’re still looking into options and trying to figure out what he actually needs.  It’s not about “Autistic children need _______.”  It’s about “Jackson, who happens to be ASD, needs _______.”

One of those needs is to improve his hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.  Building with LEGOs seems like one way to work on that.  I’ve also started him on regular LEGO Star Wars video gaming therapy.  Now if I could only get him to stop blowing me up…

One final thought.  Jackson is very rule-oriented, which I’m told is not uncommon for children with Aspergers.  Yesterday, my wife was teaching him to play checkers.  He did quite well … and then he got his first king, at which point he announced, “But kings make their own rules!”

Autism Spectrum Disorder

So a little while back, I was pondering how much to publicly share about family, particularly my children.  There was a reason for this.

Today we received confirmation from my son’s school that he meets their criteria for ASD — Autism Spectrum Disorder.

It’s not completely unexpected.  My wife is a practicing counselor.  I’ve got a degree in psych.  Both of us had noticed certain behavioral issues.

Jackson[1. That’s the name he chose for himself for Daddy’s blog] is a brilliant little kid, and he’s very high functioning.  He is who he is.  A note from the school doesn’t change that.  What it does is gives us a way to make sure he gets the help he needs in school.

Next steps are to meet with the school this afternoon, and to talk to someone about a medical diagnosis.  (If he meets the school’s criteria, the odds are very good that he’ll meet the medical criteria as well, since the schools … well, since it costs them money to provide special ed. services, they’re motivated to minimize the false positives.)

I’m still processing this, and probably will be for a very long time.

I’m not asking for advice, and I’m not currently in a space where I’m interested in hearing it.  If you decide to comment and tell me what I should do, there’s a very good chance your comment will be deleted.

He’s a good kid.  I know he’s going to be okay.  I know the rest of us will, too.  But it’s hard right now.

I don’t know where I’m going with this, so I’m going to just share a picture.

(This was from two years back.  Jackson was sick.  It’s one of my favorite pictures.)

Jim C. Hines