Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The Enchanted Island of Oz

1976 brought Thompson's twenty-first and final Oz novel. The reason being it was published posthumously. She died of bowel problems (don't laugh, it's more serious and painful than it sounds) at the age of 84 in April.

David Perry is a little boy going to the circus, when his grandmother insists on replacing a button on his shirt. He is surprised at the circus that his wish for a camel to talk comes true. However, he also wished that they could go SOMEWHERE.

It's an Oz book, where else would they wind up?

Yes, there's a place in the Gillikin County called Somewhere, and this begins a series of disjointed adventures for David and Humpty the Camel. They go to Dwindlebury where everything shrinks to pint-size. They are rescued by an eagle who wanted them for dinner, but has to drop them off in the Winkie Country. They land in Lake Lily and meet a water nymph named Water Lily.

David and Humpty continue in a southeast direction until they meet the Tin Woodman, who gives them a jumping stick to help them get to his palace so they can rest there. They accept this offer and we meet his maid Makebel Eva. They spend the night in his palace and then head through Dog Wood, but just after leaving it, they spot an island in the sky!

And no, it's not Sky Island or Umbrella Island. It is, in fact, the kingdom of Kapurta, a little country set afloat by a wish made with a magic button on a vest. But after a couple moves, the button was lost and the people face the possibility of eventual starvation.

However, when David and Humpty visit, it turns out David's new button is the missing button. The king promises to use it to send David home, but first, they decide to visit the Emerald City and the Cowardly Lion's birthday party.

The Cowardly Lion picks up the name "Cowy," but it didn't stick.

Anyways, after a jolly celebration, David returns home.

The only problem with The Enchanted Island of Oz is that it doesn't feel like an Oz book. And there's a reason. It was not originally an Oz book. When Fred Meyer heard of the story of a boy and a camel and a magic wishing button, he told Thompson that the International Wizard of Oz Club would publish it if she made it into an Oz story. As it turned out, many of the last days of her life were spent fine-tuning the book.

Thompson somehow knew this would be her last Oz story, even though she hinted that she had some notes in her desk. As it turned out, it was. It's a really good, fun story, but the Oz connection feels so light. The Emerald City visit and the run-in with the Tin Woodman could easily be excised, and that would leave us with no Oz connection.

Now, this would be Thompson's last Oz story, but would it be her last Oz book?

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