Saturday, May 24, 2008

Orissa Kane, Aviatress and Action Heroine

You will recall that I recently mentioned that I got Hungry Tiger Press' new reprint of The Flying Girl by L. Frank Baum.

To be accurate, they have reprinted it before in Oz-Story 3, but this new edition is still desirable for Baum collectors and scholars with that edition. One, this edition contains the Eric Shanower illustrations from Oz-Story as well as the halftone illustrations by Joseph Pierre Nuyttens. Second, the Foreword was omitted from the Oz-Story printing, but it is retained here. (I have my guess as to why it was omitted, but it is difficult for me to phrase it.) Third, it is in hardcover and in a volume by itself, making the reading a bit easier, complete with larger type.

The story tells of the Kane family, who were quite well-to-do, when the husband and father died and the family had no income save for their orange grove. Stephen Kane, one of the two children, works in a mechanic repair shop and happens to learn how to fix airplanes almost by accident, then begins to plan how to build a better one. His sister Orissa completely supports his endeavors, and helps him plan and raise money to build one.

Warning, from this point on, I will be discussing plot elements from The Flying Girl and The Flying Girl and Her Chum. If you have not read these books yet, and don't wish to have the story spoiled for you, you may not want to read further.

Baum wrote the Flying Girl series under the pseudonym of Edith Van Dyne, the same pen name he used for the Aunt Jane's Nieces series and the Mary Louise books. The Flying Girl books didn't sell quite so well as "Van Dyne's" other books. While a recent article in The Baum Bugle (Why "The Flying Girl" Crashed, The Baum Bugle Spring 2006) brought up why certain events in female aviation killed the series, I think another reason may be found in the other works of "Edith Van Dyne."

I've only read Aunt Jane's Nieces (as it is the only book from the "Van Dyne" collection not printed by Hungry Tiger Press that is available in an edition worth collecting), where at the end, the three nieces have become prim ladies. Orissa and her friend, Sybil Cumberford, are still ladies, but they are active, impulsive (though Sybil doesn't break out really until the second book), and, in book two, they exhibit some tomboyishness.

And another thing, the Flying Girl series has a stock of young, eligible bachelors: Orissa's brother Stephen and Chesty Todd, the Kane/Cumberford press agent, who proves instrumental in the outcome of Book One. While there is some interest hinted at a possible romance that could develop between Stephen and Sybil, nothing comes of it. While it may seem that Chesty and Orissa might make a perfect romance, in Book Two, it seems more obvious that a relationship may develop between him and new friend Madeline Dentry. Orissa is oddly left without a love interest.

Quite odd for a girl's book, eh?

Instead, what do we get? Why, two classic L. Frank Baum adventures, full of action and intrigue, and memorable characters who would never fit into an Oz book.

If you haven't read the books yet, I highly suggest them. I've read The Flying Girl about four times already and it has yet to get old.

Hungry Tiger Press' editions are always high quality (I've yet to have a HTP book fall apart on me), and these two reprints truly shine in their matched brilliance.

(Wishes that he could write more about the illustrations, but realizes that this has gone on for long enough.)

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