Sunday, June 01, 2014

Dorothy of Oz

So, with Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return having come and gone from theaters, I realized I haven't discussed the book it was based on here. Dorothy of Oz was the first Oz book by Roger S. Baum, one of L. Frank Baum's great-grandsons. Seemingly, he wrote it on a challenge from a member of the International Wizard of Oz Club. (I'll bet it was Fred Meyer, but if anyone knows who it was, I'd be interested to know.) This was the result, packaged into a fine book by Books of Wonder, illustrated by Elizabeth Miles. (Eric Shanower indicated in the afterword of Adventures in Oz that he'd been approached to illustrate the book, but decided not to take the job.)

The book opens with Dorothy in Kansas. The Wizard appears in the end of the book, and the text mentions Dorothy knows about dama fruit, so this book seems to be set after Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, but before The Emerald City of Oz. Glinda sends the Silver Shoes to Dorothy with a message that she's needed in Oz, and the Silver Shoes have enough magic to get her to Oz and back home to Kansas again. (The Magic Belt is completely absent from this book.)

In Oz, Dorothy finds the palace of Gayelette and Quelala, but it's been taken over by Gayelette's Jester, who has been corrupted by the Wicked Witch of the West's wand. (Remember that from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz? ... Yeah, me neither.) He's turned everyone in the palace into porcelain figurines, including the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion. When he takes Toto,  Dorothy makes him an offer: if he lets the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Lion accompany her, she will bring Glinda to him. He agrees. Dorothy also manages to take the Princess of the Dainty China Country, who she found among the other figurines.

Dorothy and her friends face several obstacles on their way: dragons, a curse from the Wicked Witch of the East, a river that requires them to build the talking boat Tugg, and an enchanted maze. Finally, Dorothy has to scheme with Glinda and Ozma on how they can stop the Jester and restore everyone to their original forms.

Roger S. Baum's books are not the most loved Oz books. While he can come up with interesting situations (the Maze is a particular favorite scene of mine), his writing style leaves a bit to be desired. It's easy to read, but very flat. While the original Mr. Baum was admittedly not the greatest writer, he still managed to add a third dimension to his characters and world. Not having everything spelled out and having some odd gaps actually added to the charm of Oz rather than detracting from it. Roger lacks that same charm. This isn't to say that his writing is horrible, but he pales in the shadow of his great-grandfather.

That said, likely due to Peter Glassman being on board with the creation of this book, I believe Dorothy of Oz is the best of Roger's Oz books that I've read so far. (Three.) I did find his point of returning to characters and places from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz irksome. We have Boq and the Queen of the Field Mice returning in a chapter about the Yellow Brick Road. Then we have some expansion on the Dainty China Country, which is actually a nice touch.

Elizabeth Miles' charming illustrations also help the book stand out. Her figures are charming, though for the people of Dainty China Country, I did find the concept of each one having a base awkward. (How do they move around and interact with those things?) That said, while she gives us plenty of illustrations of Dorothy and her friends, we get far too few of other characters. There's only a couple of pictures of the Jester, and one that's unclear as to whether it's Glinda or Ozma.

Dorothy of Oz should be easily available if you want to check it out, both in print form and in an ebook format.

(And anyone wanting an idea of how close Legends of Oz is to the book, yes, Candy County is in the book, but it occurs as a largely self-contained episode before Dorothy finds out about the Jester. Marshal Mallow was created for the film, based on another character, and Wiser serves a very different purpose in the plot.)

1 comment:

Sam A M said...

I intend to read this book again before seeing the movie, if a date is ever specified, but the writing is definitely better and BETTER than say "Lion of Oz and the Badge of Courage".

And, with Elizabeth Miles as illustrator, is the ONLY book out of his whole set where Dorothy is NOT illustrated to look like Judy Garland or wear that same old gingham (school?) gown. I don't mind her being a blonde here at all, I even like the way she does the characters' lips - they look a tiny bit African-American (which is cute!).

Just too bad the drawings aren't a bit darker.