Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Scarecrow of Oz by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by John R. Neill

The Scarecrow of Oz, while not the best of Baum's Oz books, nevertheless contains some unforgettable characters. Of course, Trot, Cap'n Bill, Button-Bright, and the great Scarecrow himself are favorites. But this particular volume introduces such unforgettable personages as the featherless Ork, with his propeller tail, the Bumpy Man who lives in the Land of Mo, and the romantic Gloria and Pon. While these characters are memorable, the story is weak in the classic plot of strange characters and countries encountered while traveling. The only traveling in Oz, after the problems of Gloria and Pon have been solved, is made quite fantastically luxurious by the Wizard and the Scarecrow's little mishap seems to be an afterthought.

Verdict: It's worth reading for the dedicated Oz fan, and those not in love with all things Ozzy will find it worthwhile to read about the strange Ork and the magical Land of Mo. If your library collections Oz books, go ahead and add it, but otherwise it's not one you need - stick to the first three Oz titles for your basic collection.

ISBN: Various; Published by many different publishers at different times, there are several reprints currently available; Purchased for my collection (cheap paperback edition, I'm still looking for one of the older editions)


J. L. Bell said...

I think The Scarecrow of Oz shows its roots in the different types of stories Baum stuck together.

It starts as the third in the series of "Trot" books, following that little girl and Cap'n Bill in journeys outside Oz. In Sea Fairies they went under the sea. In Sky Island they went into the sky. And at the start of Scarecrow they travel underground.

Later Baum borrowed his scenario for a movie titled His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz. That's where Pon and Gloria and the whole Jinxland plot come in.

The familiar Oz plot of traveling through odd places within Oz is really an afterthought, almost appended on to the Jinxland adventure to bring the book up to its expected length. Alas, by that point the Ork (the real hero of the book) has left.

Despite that lack of unity, Scarecrow was reportedly one of Baum's best-selling titles. The title character's popularity helped, of course.

Cailin Sanders said...

Yes, I'd agree with that although I think Sky Island and Sea Fairies hang together much better. I'd say this is part of Trot and Cap'n Bill's transition to being "Ozzy" characters.