I've really been neglecting my blog this year - but I'm afraid that's bound to happen from time to time!
Here's an endpaper image from The Gnome King of Oz that I've always liked. As usual with John R. Neill's endpaper drawings, this doesn't illustrate any specific part of the story - it's just a fun image to catch the reader's interest. It's also appropriate for the book as part of the story takes place in the kingdom of Patch, where much sewing and mending takes place.
The idea of spool toys just feels right for Oz, in my opinion. Something easily made from common objects, just like Scraps or Jack Pumpkinhead, and put to a new use. As a kid I would make vehicles with spool wheels, and even a wind up tank that really ran (involving a rubber band, a sliver of soap, a matchstick and a spool). Of course these were still the days of common wooden spools - something of a rarity now!
Personally, I'd prefer spool cars to the Scala- wagons that Neill came up with for Ozian transport in his own stories. But Neill didn't forget the idea of spool toys in Oz - his original cover sketch for The Runaway in Oz features Scraps pedaling away on her spoolicle, which we are told is her favorite mode of transport. This was the inspiration for the handsome cover design by Eric Shanower, who illustrated and also edited the 1995 publication of this final Oz tale by John R. Neill.