|The Patchwork Girl of Oz by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by John R. Neill.|
Published by Reilly & Britton, 1913.
Books of Wonder facsimile edition published by HarperCollins, 1995.
Okay, okay - last Oz post for a while, I promise.
This is the one we're reading right now. This is the one I was eager to get to, because this is the one where we finally meet my favorite character in Oz.
This is Scraps, the Patchwork Girl of Oz. This is also my favorite illustration.
The Patchwork Girl of Oz was L. Frank Baum's return to the series. If you remember, at the end of The Emerald City of Oz, Baum had Glinda seal his fairyland off from the rest of the world. He ended the book by telling his readers he no longer had access to any of the stories. However, back in the real world, Baum experienced some financial setbacks, so two years later, he returned to the Oz books, as they were always surefire sellers.
Now let us admire John R. Neill's glorious endpapers.
In his prologue, Baum explains that one of his young readers suggested that perhaps he could communicate with the citizens of Oz via telegraph. Apparently, the Shaggy Man dictated this whole story to Baum using Morse code.
One of the reasons Baum did not want to write any more Oz books was that he had other fantasy worlds and amazing characters he wanted to write about. And he did write many non-Oz books, but the public only wanted Oz. Well, if he was going to be stuck with the Oz series, who says he had to stick with his regular cast of characters? Who says he couldn't venture to other fairylands, as long as the book returned to Oz?
At the beginning of Patchwork Girl, we meet a young Munchkin boy named Ojo, who ventures with his Unc Nunkie to the nearest neighbor's home in search of food. The neighbor is Dr. Pipt, the Crooked Magician, who has almost completed a new batch of the Powder of Life, which he plans to use on a life-size doll sewn by his wife, Margolotte. Margolotte needs a servant girl, so she has fashioned one out of a patchwork quilt. She intends to give her only enough brains to make her an obedient worker, but when her back is turned, Ojo adds a great deal more to her stuffed head. We also meet another favorite character of mine, Bungle the Glass Cat, brought to life by the same Powder, who has a hard ruby heart and pearly pink brains - "You can see them work."
An accident leaves Unc Nunkie and Margolotte frozen like marble, so Ojo sets off in search of the items Dr. Pipt needs to set them free. He is accompanied by the crazy, clever Scraps and the vain, brittle Glass Cat. Their first item is found when they come upon The Woozy, another wonderful Baum creation, a square dog-like animal with skin so tough, no one can pull out the three hairs in his tail (the needed ingredient). We meet some other interesting creatures before we finally find a familiar face - The Shaggy Man. From there, the rest of the adventure unfolds, as our new heroes meet old heroes. The entire book is full of some of Neill's most beautiful illustrations, including some spectacular double-page spreads. Seriously, if you have ever thought about reading these books, this one should convince you to give them a try.
A few bonus items:
A year later, Baum would once again experience a financial setback. His Oz Film Manufacturing Company made several feature films, including a rather different Patchwork Girl of Oz, all of which were commercial failures.
Did you know that Walt Disney had once planned his own Oz feature film? Here is some footage from an episode of "The Mickey Mouse Club" from 1957. His planned film would have been called The Rainbow Road to Oz, and seemed to be a hodge-podge of this book and The Road to Oz.
One last thing to share with you today. One of my very favorite items at the Oz Museum in Wamego was this little Woozy figure, handmade by L. Frank Baum himself, not long before his death.
And now I am done.
I have to be. I will soon have a month's worth of holidays to be obnoxious about. You're going to long for the days I droned on and on about Oz, wink wink.