Welcome to my blog, featuring various pieces from my collection of Oz books, artwork and memorabilia!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Neill Oz Titles

After Ruth Plumly Thompson left the Oz series, John R. Neill stepped up to continue writing, as well as illustrating, the stories. As much as I admire his artwork, I have to confess that his stories don't do a whole lot for me.

His first, The Wonder City of Oz, was heavily rewritten and edited by the publishers. Much of the artwork for this title does survive. The following two, The Scalawagons of Oz and Lucky Bucky in Oz, were kept much closer to his intentions. I know the cover drawing and color sketch survive from Lucky Bucky - I don't know of any other pieces.

Neill planned a fourth title, The Runaway in Oz, but did not live to see it published. This missing Oz title was finally published by Books of Wonder in 1995, with editing and illustrations by Eric Shanower - my favorite among contemporary Oz illustrators.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Removable Heads

L. Frank Baum's early Oz stories contain an amazing quantity of removable heads. Here are a few examples, off the top of my head...

In Wonderful Wizard, the Scarecrow's head is removed in order to put his new brains in the right place - and of course, the Wizard appears to Dorothy as a giant head!

In Marvelous Land, Jack Pumpkinhead loses his head a few times, and is constantly worried whether it might spoil.

In Ozma, Princess Langwidere has a head for every day of the month and threatens Dorothy with a head exchange.

Road to Oz introduces the Scoodlers, who throw their heads at their enemies. Also, Button Bright and The Shaggy Man are given replacement fox and donkey heads for a while.

In Emerald City, one of the groups of villains are the Whimsies, who wear large cardboard heads over their own tiny heads.

The theme pops up in non-Oz stories as well - in A New Wonderland, the King of Phunniland loses his head and is forced to try new heads of various materials before regaining his original.

In John Dough, the General who goes to pieces lost his head at Santiago and had it replaced with wax - but the female executioner is stymied when she is unable to cut the head from a wooden cigar store Indian.

One of the most memorable moments in the series is the discovery by the Tin Woodman of his former head, in a cupboard, in The Tin Woodman of Oz. The Tin Woodman was originally made of flesh and bone, but slowly cut himself to pieces with an enchanted ax, visiting a local tinsmith after every accident to replace each missing part. The tinsmith kept all the pieces, and when a similar fate befell another character, a soldier, the tinsmith used the various body pieces of both men to create a new man. Since he only needed one head, the spare was kept in a cupboard in his shop. This whole concept is very intriguing.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Ozoplaning with the Wizard

Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz was published in 1939, and ended Ruth Plumly Thompson's run of Oz books for Reilly & Lee. As this was the year of the MGM movie, an attempt was made to benefit from the publicity surrounding the film.

The cover is interestingly generic, and was designed with the Wizard, Scarecrow, and Tin Woodman prominently featured. The title The Wizard of Oz appears in large letters - Ozoplaning With is almost an afterthought.

The Oz characters of the story are all pulled from those present in the first book - but rather than using the more familiar characters, primary roles were given to Jellia Jamb and the Soldier with the Green Whiskers. It's nice to see these secondary figures on an adventure of their own. Hungry Tiger Press has recently published a new edition of this title.

Thompson would write two more Oz titles. In the 1970's The International Wizard of Oz Club printed Yankee in Oz, and The Enchanted Island of Oz, both with illustrations by Dick Martin. New editions of both of these books are currently available from the club.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Neill Watercolor

Here's a watercolor by John R. Neill, which I think bears a striking resemblance to a published drawing of Planetty, the Silver Princess in The Silver Princess in Oz. The pose is very similar, as is the outfit, if a bit more risque. I don't know if this drawing was ever published - I'm guessing it wasn't.

Apparently Neill did do his share of bawdy drawings - in these days of adult/dark Oz tales, it's interesting to consider how Neill might have worked as an illustrator.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Silver Princess in Oz

The Silver Princess in Oz, from 1938, was the second to last Oz book written by Ruth Plumly Thompson for Reilly & Lee. She also published King Kojo this year, possibly looking for an alternative to the Oz series as she was getting tired of working with Reilly & Lee - after all, this was her 18th Oz book, four more than L. Frank Baum had written.

The story veers towards science fiction, as the Silver Princess herself is from another planet - or to be more precise, Anuther Planet. Of course, magic in Oz has always had a technological bent, so this blends in very nicely.

Since color plates were no longer in use, John R. Neill had found another way to create memorable images; in the final Oz books he illustrated, he used a few double page spreads for effect.

The first editions of this book used metallic silver ink in the title on the cover and dust jacket - a nice touch, and something that hadn't been done since The Sea Fairies in 1911. The spine of the dust jacket on this book, as well as the previous title Handy Mandy, dispenses with the small image of the main character's head that had been present on all previous Thompson titles.

I always thought it was a little odd that Handy Mandy's head was used on the spine of the book itself - when the International Wizard of Oz Club published their reprint edition of this title in 1990, they corrected that error with an image of the princess on the spine of both the book and the dust jacket.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I collect a few different series of children's books, and it's interesting to compare the bindings of the Oz books with two British series from the same time period. The British titles are smaller in scale, and very elegant but lack some of the colorful exuberance of the Oz series.

Many British children's books seem to favor red or blue cloth, with gilt stamping. In the case of the Andrew Lang Fairy Book series, the cloth color matches the title of the book - blue, red, green, on up to olive and lilac. The Story Books which go with the series are bound in blue or red, again with the wonderful pictorial gilt stamping. These are beautiful little books, and very rich with the extensive gilt on the covers and spine. Of course this series was ostensibly for children, but as it is a fine collection of folklore and fairy tales, it was collected by many adults as well.

The books of E. Nesbit tend to be bound in red, though there are exceptions. Here again, the look is very uniform, without the variety seen in the Oz bindings. In comparison, the Oz books are large and bold, and in my mind exactly what a child would want! Perhaps Lewis Carroll was right, when he rejected the first printing of The Nursery Alice, claiming that the printing of the color illustrations was too gaudy but would be fine for Americans.

L. Frank Baum and Ruth Plumly Thompson were both very aware of Lang and Nesbit - Thompson mentioned reading both authors.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Captain Salt and Handy Mandy

Captain Salt in Oz, from 1936, was the first Oz book without color plates (not counting Road to Oz, which didn't have color plates but did feature pages of different colors of paper). This is also the only Oz story that never quite gets around to arriving in Oz itself. The characters are all Thompson's own, with no Scarecrow, Tinman or other traditional Oz celebrities - but as the main characters were already introduced in Pirates in Oz, the book fits right into the series.

I've always liked the way John R. Neill used the ship's wheel to create the word Oz for the cover title - this is the only time he did anything of that sort.

Handy Mandy, from 1937, is one of the odder characters Thompson came up with. A girl with seven hands takes a bit of getting used to - but I've always liked this book. Thompson's writing can be fairly slapdash at times, but the overall breeziness is enjoyable.

The spine of Handy Mandy in Oz used a stamped image of the main character's head. This same head was used the following year on Silver Princess in Oz. I also have a circa 1939 copy of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz with the same head. Handy Mandy got around!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Children's Stories

In 1908, Reilly & Britton published a popular series of small books called Children's Stories That Never Grow Old, with illustrations by John R. Neill; I believe the Neill illustrations for this series were originally done for the Philadelphia North American newspaper. These individual books were published in a couple of formats, and as The Children's Red Books they were printed two to a volume - I've pictured a couple different binding examples. They continued to be published by Reilly & Lee into the 1920's, with new cover designs.

A compilation of these stories was published in 1908 under the title Children's Stories That Never Grow Old. In 1916, another book was published called Ever New Stories for Children, containing the titles which were not used in the first volume. Then, in 1922, Reilly & Lee published Children's Poems That Never Grow Old, obviously intending to tie into the popular series. John R Neill created 8 new illustrations for the book, which were printed as color plates.

I have a copy of Children's Stories That Never Grow Old which was published by The Musson Book Company of Toronto. I find this interesting, as Reilly & Britton worked with the Copp, Clark Company for the Canadian editions of the Oz books and other titles. It strikes me as odd that they would use a different publisher for this book.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Wishing Horse

The Wishing Horse of Oz, from 1935, was the last Oz title issued with color plates. It's a shame that the color illustrations were dropped from later books, but this was the Depression and I'm sure costs needed to be cut. Ruth Plumly Thompson also thought it was unfortunate that the plates were discontinued, but at this point she was unhappy about several aspects of the Oz series, particularly Reilly & Lee's lack of promotion of the books.

John R. Neill drew a horse, way back in his Nip & Tuck comic page of 1909, that looks very similar to the cover of this book. Of course, Neill drew a great many horses over his career, so it's not too surprising that some should resemble each other!

The white dustjacket for this book almost slips back to the former style of jacket, less colorful than the past several books. But this does make it stand out from other titles on the shelf!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Magic Umbrellas

When thinking of traveling by umbrella, Mary Poppins is the first image to pop into my mind - due mainly to the Disney movie, rather than the books. But L. Frank Baum introduced a magic umbrella for traveling in 1912, in Sky Island, and in 1934, the same year that Poppins was published, Ruth Plumly Thompson introduced Umbrella Island in Speedy in Oz. The entire island travels through the air, and is covered by a huge umbrella.

In his afterword for the International Wizard of Oz club edition of Speedy in Oz, Fred Meyer calls out the various umbrellas Thompson made use of in her Oz stories. He mentions seven in all, some magical and some not, but Umbrella Island certainly is the largest.

Incidentally, I find it interesting that Button Bright's umbrella in Sky Island has an elephant head for a handle, just as Mary Poppins' umbrella has a parrot head. I suppose unique umbrellas need unique handles!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Altemus Titles

John R. Neill illustrated a number of books for the Henry Altemus publishing company, of Philadelphia. Many of these were standard series titles, for boys and for girls, and are mostly forgotten today. Neill isn't credited for his work in most cases, but his drawings are unmistakable.

He also illustrated several smaller story and fairy tale books for the company. These were done around the time of Marvelous Land of Oz, and the illustrations are in a simpler style - but highlighted with red and blue.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

King Kojo

King Kojo has the look and feel of an Oz book, with its colorful cover, dust jacket and illustrations, but this story published in 1938 was Ruth Plumly Thompson's attempt to break away from Oz. The book was published by David McCay, and illustrated by Marge, a close friend of Thompson's and the creator of Little Lulu.

The story - or series of stories - could easily fit in an Oz book, possibly taking place in one of the little kingdoms created by Thompson throughout the land. The same fanciful sense is present - there's even a comment by a character stating that "ogres melt in salt water, just like witches" - certainly a variation on an Ozian theme.

The color plates are bright, and Marge's work is energetic, if in a very different style than John R. Neill. Some of her artwork makes me think of James Thurber, particularly Dorcas the giant figurehead!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Del Rey Speedy

Michael Herring created a somewhat macabre painting for the cover of the Del Rey edition of Speedy in Oz. Of course, that's not too difficult when one of the main characters is a living dinosaur skeleton! Here we see Terrybubble the dinosaur floating through the air, with Speedy and Gureeda tucked inside his rib cage.

I also have a preliminary sketch for this piece. The image is basically identical, except that the dinosaur bones are brown rather than white - probably a truer depiction, but the white bones do brighten things up a bit! The background hills have also grown, against a more dramatic sky.

John R. Neill also drew this incident as a chapter title. His Terrybubble looks a bit more flexible, but Speedy and Gureeda are difficult to distinguish.

This is the last of the Herring paintings I have. He painted one more, for The Wishing Horse of Oz, but the Del Rey series ended at that point. I've heard rumors of possible sketches for further titles, but I've had no luck in finding whether these exist.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Oz Game Board

I was asked to post a complete picture of the Wonderful Game of Oz board, so here it is. There's a bit of glare but I think the details are all pretty clear if you click on the image for an enlargement.

The game was copyrighted in 1921, and the board shows quite a few characters from The Magic of Oz, which was published in 1919. I don't see anything specifically from Glinda of Oz (1920), so possibly the board was designed before that book was published. At any rate, 67 characters and places are pictured on the board, as well as a few small countries, which I think is doing pretty well!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Denslow Cover?

According to the Greene/ Hearn biography, W. W. Denslow created a cover for the book Gemma, published by Rand McNally in 1898. I have a copy of this title but I'm not completely certain whether it has the Denslow cover. I think it does, but it is a little difficult to say - there is no seahorse signature, which is the easiest way to be certain, but as I've shown several times, the signature is not always present.

The overall look of the cover is a bit different than I would expect. The type used for the author's name certainly looks like Denslow, as does the vignette on the rear cover. I believe many of these titles went through several cover designs in a short period of time, and Denslow wasn't the only artist designing for the firm.

Overall, I believe it is a Denslow cover, but it's an example of how collecting can be confusing - sometimes you just have to take a chance with your own instinct!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Speedy Sketch

Here's a pencil sketch by John R. Neill for the character Gureeda, from Speedy in Oz. This drawing looks like it was cut from a page of sketches - it's now been mounted on a larger backing.

An unusual feature is Neill's bold signature across the bottom of the picture; he didn't tend to sign his sketches, or even many of his finished Oz drawings at this time. My theory is that this was sent to an Oz fan who asked for an autograph, or possibly a drawing.

The sketch doesn't match up to any finished drawings of the character in the book.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Del Rey Ojo

The Del Rey cover for Ojo in Oz, by Michael Herring, is a lovely study in blues. We're obviously in the Munchkin Country, where blue is preferred. This certainly makes Snufferbux, the brown bear, stand out! The man with the twisty legs is the Elevator Man, who plays an important part in the climax of the plot.

Snufferbux is taken directly from a John R. Neill illustration of the character. However, Herring has once again created a much more finished scene as well as adding his own touch to X. Pando, the Elevator Man.

At 18" by 24", this cover painting is a little smaller than most of the previous Ruth Plumly Thompson covers. In the cropping of the printed version, Ojo almost doesn't make it onto the cover!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ojo And Speedy

Here are two more titles by Ruth Plumly Thompson, Ojo in Oz from 1933 and Speedy in Oz from 1934.
Ojo fills in the back story of a character first introduced by L. Frank Baum in 1913, in The Patchwork Girl of Oz, while Speedy continues the adventures of one of Thompson's boy heroes.

In Ojo, Thompson is working hard to fill in gaps of Ozian history left by Baum. Several of her books serve this purpose, some more successfully than others. This book takes an underused character and gives him some new adventures, which is always fun.

I like John R. Neill's endpaper illustrations, featuring some very fanciful gypsy caravans, and I also think the color plates in this book are particularly nice.

With Speedy, Thompson is writing almost entirely for her own original characters, and stays away from Oz for much of the book - most of the story takes place in the air. The Emerald City and traditional characters don't appear until the final two chapters. I do think Terrybubble, the living dinosaur skeleton, is a worthy addition to the Oz inhabitants!