Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Wonder Book

The Wonder Book by Ruth Plumly Thompson is quite possibly the only book written by an Oz author to have a title very similar to an already published book, A Wonder Book by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

I actually attempted to read Hawthorne's Wonder Book. All it contained were retellings of classic myths, and eventually, I couldn't finish it.

However, Thompson's Wonder Book is quite different. It is largely composed of a lot of her work for the Philadelphia Public Ledger's children's page. There are stories, poems, riddles, party plans, scripts for short plays, and even profiles of real people.

Some stories are long and break off and are continued later. The first, Marvelous Travels on a Wish, was recently printed by itself by Hungry Tiger Press as The Wish Express, restored to its original length from the newspaper version, as Thompson had edited her stories.

Thompson was great in short form! And she was quite original, too! Although she had some serial stories (such as a series about a little girl who talked to the dishes as she washed them and put them away), she wasn't repetitious, at least, not in the selection in The Wonder Book.

Here were some of my favorites:
  • Marvelous Travels on a Wish A little boy named Berens wishes he was SOMEONE ELSE and SOMEWHERE ELSE, and the Dissatisfied Bug bites him and takes him aboard the Wish, where he meets many unusual characters and visits many strange places before becoming Someone Else. But is Someone Else's life really any better?
  • The One-Legged Giant A giant loses a leg and is left near a town, helpless. Can the townsfolk do something about him before he eats them out of house and home?
  • The Supposyville Poems Supposyville is a little kingdom with odd quirks and a funny little king, and the wise man, Solomon Tremendous Wise, who offers advice to the king, and invents many inventions. One such invention is his mechanical maid, Handy Mandy, definitely a forerunner to a certain Oz character, though not the same character. Supposyville itself feels like a predecessors for all those little places in Oz she created.
  • A Cup and Saucer Conversation A little girl named Betsy discovers the china dishes can talk to her as she washes them. This is continued for several stories. It's fun because Thompson deftly imagines what life as a dish would be like.
  • Strange Story of a Green Camel What's a green camel to do? Well, when he meets some little elves ready to give him a wish, he must consider his options.
  • The Princess Who Slept Thirty Years When a wizard is mad at a king, he declares the newborn princess will sleep for thirty years. It almost seems like a twist on Sleeping Beauty, and it may well be, but Thompson delivers an excellent little twist at the end.
  • The Giant Who Did Not Believe In People When a giant doesn't believe in people, and thus becomes quite dangerous, the Fairy Queen decides to cast a spell to convince him otherwise.
  • The Tale of Terry Tommy Turtle A story with a little moral: a candy-making turtle learns a lesson about putting wealth before safety. It doesn't have a happy ending.
  • The Secret of the Magic Word Shades of The Magic of Oz! Except, this story was published the year before Baum's penultimate Oz book. A naughty little boy learns a magic word that allows him to transform himself. Also a story with an unhappy ending with a moral.
Thompson's fun to read and the book proves a delight, especially when read at a leisurely pace.

Thanks, Ruth Plumly Thompson, for giving us a Wonder Book that is truly wonderful!

1 comment:

Nathan said...

I have to say I found Marvelous Travels on a Wish to be rather disturbing, perhaps largely because of the treatment Berens receives in Somewhere Else.

Supposyville is located near the Maybe Mountains, also the name of the range in which Perhaps City can be found. As Supposyville has a harbor, however, they must be different Maybe Mountains.