Roger, a great-grandson of L. Frank Baum, was approached by a member of the International Wizard of Oz Club to write more Oz books. His first book, Dorothy of Oz, was published in 1989 and has been adapted into an animated film which will be released next year.
Roger has produced twelve additional Oz books, the latest to be released next year. Dorothy of Oz met with warm reception, but subsequent books under Roger's name have had mixed reviews, generally due to the books practically ignoring L. Frank Baum's original continuity.
My first exposure to this story was its animated film adaptation, Lion of Oz, produced in 2000. Realizing we'd be covering it eventually in the Movies of Oz podcasts, I decided to get the book so I'd have a fuller appreciation of it.
Lion of Oz and the Badge of Courage follows a young lion in Africa who is captured and brought to a circus where he is befriended by the balloonist, Oscar Zoroaster Diggs, who gives him a badge of Courage.
In the first logic problem of the story, Oscar takes the Lion for a balloon ride, which happens to be the same fateful ride that hurls Oscar into the Land of Oz. So, it also hurls the Lion into Oz as well.
See, there was no need for this. Who takes a lion, regardless of how tame it is, for a balloon ride? Furthermore, why is it necessary that the Lion was not a native Ozian lion? In fact, the story could have been told easily with that premise.
The plot gets muddled at times but remains pretty easy to follow. The Wicked Witch of the East finds the Lion and tasks him to find the Flower of Oz, the source of all good in Oz. Lion meets and is joined by SillyOzBul Percival, a young girl named Wimsik, her toys Caroline and Captain Fitzgerald, and a baby dragon named Burt.
Along their journey, they come across a curious sign-man, mini-Munchkins, a whirlpool in the River of Flowers, a vanishing silver bridge, a seamstress who turns people into decorations for a dress for the Wicked Witch of the West, Burt's parents, and 4,999 SillyOzBuls.
Lion even meets the Wizard himself, though Roger explains that it's been so long that Lion no longer recognizes him. I guess Lion has a really short memory for faces, because his adventure seems to start almost as soon as he lands in Oz. Are we to assume he spends months before being joined by anyone? Not likely, as the text doesn't indicate that. If he forgets what Oscar looks like this easily, then why is making the Witch set him free (she lies that she has Oscar captive) such a big deal for him?
There is also a major logic problem in how the plot is resolved, but as I'm reviewing and not analyzing, I won't spoil that.
Not only does the plot suffer from critical logic problems, but the text could get downright dull to read.
Captain Fitzgerald looked at the lion, and said, "This lion must be brave. Look at his ribbon and Badge of Courage."Roger sounds as bored as his characters.
"Yes, he must be brave," repeated Caroline.
"We will leave in the morning," said Lion.
There's some nasty errors. In a repeated case, "you're" is spelled "your." Very often, characters speak for more than one paragraph. Now, when this happens, there is supposed to be another quotation mark at the beginning of the next paragraph to indicate that it is dialogue, but this isn't done. And most of the time, there was no need to break into another paragraph.
Considering the publisher, Yellow Brick Road Publishers, Inc., was Roger's own company, I begin to suspect a decent editor wasn't on board. I recall Dorothy of Oz being much better than this, but that was published by Books of Wonder.
I even have to say the animated movie managed to revise and streamline the story into a better narrative, though some logic problems are still retained. Sam and I will cover that eventually in our Movies podcasts, and we've discussed bumping it up to tie in with the release of the Dorothy of Oz movie.
Unless you're a fan of Roger Baum's books, or just gotta have all of the published Oz fiction, I wouldn't recommend this one. There are much better prequel stories about the Wizard and the Lion out there.