Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Invisible Inzi of Oz

Now that we looked at the latest Oz book, let's look at one of the first (if not THE first) published Oz stories outside of the Famous Forty: Invisible Inzi of Oz.

Virginia and Robert Wauchope were 13 (or 14) and 9 respectively when they wrote this Oz book. They claim it was dictated to them by a Ouija Board, but I have my questions about that. Furthermore, since the story reappeared in the 1980s, it's been claimed the story was dictated by L. Frank Baum's ghost. And at that, I have to really suspend disbelief.

Their mother Elizabeth typed the manuscript a few years later, editing it as she went. This was sent to Maud Baum herself, who suggested it be submitted to A Child's Garden magazine. A Child's Garden accepted it and serialized it, beginning in October 1926.

Later, Fred Meyer wrote to Robert, after a friend had uncovered the story in the Library of Congress. Shortly after, the story was published in the Winter 1980 and Summer 1981 Baum Bugle. (Why there was a Summer Bugle that year is a story all in itself.) In 1993, a book edition by Buckethead Enterprises of Oz appeared, illustrated by Eric Shanower. (Someday, I shall have to ask how he came to do it.)

The story opens with Betsy telling Dorothy that Glinda's Books of Magic are gone. Glinda asks Ozma to get a recovery party together which consists of the Wizard, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and Scraps. After Musicton, Flattown, and a run-in with Kalidahs, they find the castle of Kuik Blackbab, who the Book of Records identified as the thief of Glinda's books. However, Kuik imprisons them. Ozma goes on a rescue mission herself (with a little long-distance aid from Glinda), but Dorothy's party finds another helping hand in a mysterious creature who remains invisible to them.

Overall, the story isn't too bad, but it's not very great, either. Not bad for a couple kids in the early 20th century, but there is definitely no mark of Baum. If a Ouija board did play a part in the writing, I'm sure its role was greatly expanded by the imagination of the kids telling about it later. After all, they did wait a few years in between writing and publication before their mother edited and typed it for them.

The major flaw is that Kuik gets no serious punishment. The Wizard steals the books back and Ozma warns that if Kuik does anymore magic, he'll be made to drink the Water of Oblivion. There's no real payoff to his villainy. Another is that the way the characters speak is a little stilted. It just sounds a little off.

The book is hard to find, adding some intrigue to the story, though I'm sure the Baum Bugles it was serialized in could be obtained with a bit of searching (I was able to get them just by looking on various book sale sites and asking around). I was amazed to find a copy on the Swap Meet Table at the Winkie Convention this year.

Eric Shanower's brilliant illustrations help the book look attractive. There are ten full page illustrations as well as the cover, and many little images of characters from the story, though most of them are of the classic Oz characters.

Aside from Shanower's illustrations and the history behind it, there isn't a lot to make me recommend Invisible Inzi of Oz above many other Oz books.

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