19 December 2017

Return to Oz: The Patchwork Girl of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Trade paperback, 340 pages
Published 1990 (originally 1913)

Reread September 2016
The Patchwork Girl of Oz by L. Frank Baum
illustrated by John R. Neill

I had fond memories of this book, which I remembered as being my favorite of Baum's original fourteen Oz novels, and so when the Shanower/Young Marvel Oz comics ended one shy of it, I went on to it anyway. This is probably Baum's best plotted Oz novel since Marvelous Land, and best plotted journey-focused one since Wonderful Wizard itself, or maybe ever. Baum invents a new protagonist for the first time since Marvelous Land, and it does wonders: Ojo is a person in trouble in a way we haven't seen in these books in a long time, and it does well to create empathy for him, and thus energy for the story. Ojo's journeys across Oz are all motivated by attempting to cure his uncle of being a statue, and it makes things matter in a way they didn't for Dorothy in Road and Emerald City.

Plus, I've always loved Scraps the Patchwork Girl, and she delighted no less on this reread than any other. While Ojo is somber with responsibility beyond his years, Scraps is one of Baum's most childish characters, and that's what makes her fun-- everything is incredibly dramatic for her, as she pouts petulantly and bounds for joy in equal measure. Plus you get Oz's first real romance with her and the Scarecrow! Too bad Skottie Young never got to draw her (or the Woozy, or the Glass Cat, or the living phonograph) as I'm sure he would have done brilliantly, but you can't really go wrong with John R. Neill in any case. My 1990 Dover edition is in black and white, but is otherwise a pretty close facsimile of the original 1913 Reilly & Britton edition of the novel.

Next Week: Little adventures for little people, in Little Wizard Stories of Oz!

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