Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Aunt Jane's Nieces and Uncle John
My copy of this one is in great shape, and it may be a first edition. Once again going off of advertisements in the front, this book is the last one listed. However, it is possible they used the 1911 plates through 1912 or who knows how long before they changed them out.
Some of the plates weren't inked quite properly in my copy. Sometimes the text would be clear at the top and start thinning out at the bottom.
After Patsy adopts a mistreated dog named Mumbles, Uncle John gets the idea to spend the winter in California. John, Patsy, Beth, and the Major will take a train to Denver, Colorado, where they'll get a specially outfitted car, then down to Albuquerque, New Mexico where their hired chauffeur will drive them to California.
In Denver, they meet a girl named Myrtle Dean, who was sent out by her aunt to find and live with her Uncle Anson Jones. Myrtle doesn't have much and has poor strength in her legs, making it difficult for her to walk. Uncle John and the nieces take her under their wing, and she joins them on their trip.
The chauffeur is a French Canadian (going by his speech pattern) named Wampus. He has some odd quirks, like how he forced the train to go faster to New Mexico which gets him arrested, forcing Uncle John to post bail. But overall, Wampus is a faithful man to Uncle John and his party. He keeps a careful eye out for snakes, and on a few occasions manages to take out some rather disagreeable types single handed.
On one occasion, the party is stalled by remittance men placing barbed wire in the road, forcing the nieces to attend a dance. However, they cleverly outwit them and resume the journey.
And those familiar with Baum's life will find it no surprise that the party stays at the Hotel del Coronado. And it is at the Hotel that the party meets a C. B. Jones, who Myrtle manages to keep from committing suicide three times. They get acquainted and soon Mr. Jones confides in Uncle John that he is Collanson B. Jones, and everyone at home called him "Anson," and he is the elusive uncle Myrtle was looking for. And, like Uncle John, he's rich.
Mr. Jones soon reveals his familial connection to Myrtle and eventually they move to New York and rent one of Patsy's apartments. Myrtle, we are told, recovers the full use of her legs.
Aunt Jane's Nieces and Uncle John might sound shorter than it is, mainly because there is a lot of travelogue, a lot like The Sea Fairies. However, we are given some excellent new characters: Myrtle, the new friend who is obviously going to take the place of Louise from now on; Mr. Collanson Jones who will likely become a friend to Uncle John and the Major; and Wampus. I really hope Wampus comes back. I liked him.
The Major really gets to develop a little more. He doesn't enjoy traveling much. In past stories, he traveled alone and we didn't see his point of view. And then he just took a train. Here, his grouchiness gets to contrast with the excitement of the Nieces and the appreciation of Uncle John.
Baum self-references himself a little. He refers to the Nieces as having the generosity of Glinda the Good. But more importantly, here Baum gets to write about his new home, putting his wonder of the splendor of California into the eyes of the Nieces and Uncle John. Baum had moved to California probably about the time he was writing the book and he enjoyed many pleasant visits to the Hotel Del Coronado.
So, just as Baum's life was changing as he wrote Aunt Jane's Nieces and Uncle John, the series had changes: there were now two nieces (unless Louise returns, which wouldn't be bad) and they had new friends. I found myself really enjoying this one.
But before I jump into the next book, time for some more Thompson with The Wonder Book.