I’m extra glad I didn’t read this Oz book as a kid, because this one is all-out scary, with Dorothy in mortal danger pretty much all the time. I also kind of wish I had read it back then, also, because perhaps then I would not have noticed the plot inconsistency that acts as a major deus ex machina here, in a series already more than replete with same.
It begins with an earthquake — I’m assuming the fabled 1906 Big One in San Francisco had some bearing on that — that sees a Dorothy visiting her California relatives and getting sucked into the fairy land below ground, in company with her rightfully befuddled cousin Zeb, her cat Eureka (where even are you, Toto? He wasn’t in the last one, either…), and Zeb’s horse Jim. Now in a magical realm, Eureka and Jim can talk, and soon become characters in their own right, which is unfortunate when all four are sentenced to death by the Mangaboos, a race of vegetable people, for causing the roof to fall in. Happily, the once and future Wizard of Oz drops in, still aboard his hot air balloon, just in time to save them with some snazzy sleight of hand, and the little band escape no less than seven attempts on their lives, both intentional and inadvertent, across the succeeding pages.
My nitpicky continuity problem is with the final escape, as they are rescued by Ozma of Oz. Ozma, you see, owns a magic picture that acts rather like the mirror in The Beauty and the Beast, allowing her to see whomever she wants just by asking to. At the end of the last book, when Dorothy reluctantly but dutifully returned to her sad Uncle Henry, Ozma promised that she would look for Dorothy in the magic picture every Saturday morning, and all Dorothy would have to do was wave and she’d be instantly transported thence. (Nice that Oz keeps the same days of the week as do we.) But here, it is apparently every day at 4 pm that Ozma searches out Dorothy (nice that Oz keeps the same time as we do), and that is how our plucky band are ultimately saved.
I’d worry that this complaint is also a spoiler, except that it’s all pretty obvious what is going to happen, almost from the outset, unlike in other Oz outings. Sadly.
Oh, there is a lot that is adorable in this book, and some sparks of that jaunty, pointed Baum humour, as well. But it feels a little phoned in, I have to say, and lacks the joy of the previous efforts.
Still, I have to see what happens in this wacky world next. Book #5, here I come.
Woggle-Bug Report: Why, hello there (ever so briefly), Mr. H. M. Woggle-Bug, T. E! Congratulations on your elevation to Dean of the Royal College of Athletic Science!
TBR DAY 116: Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz (Oz #4) by L. Frank Baum
GENRE: Children’s Fiction, Classics
TIME ON THE TBR: 3 years.
PURCHASED FROM: Amazon.