Friday, September 20, 2013

The Glass Cat of Oz

1995, first edition, from Emerald City Press
David Hulan
Illustrated by George O'Connor
The Glass Cat of Oz 
Purchase price unknown
Slightly worn paperback

Almost a century after L. Frank Baum started publishing children's books, there was a flurry of what the ad in the back calls "Exciting Oz Stories from a New Generation of Authors and Artists."  I haven't read much of it and own even less.  (Oz Story Magazine will be coming along later in '95.)  This entry is pretty good, as Hulan not only revisits some of Baum's characters, but gets a bit meta as modern Oz fan Barry and his karate-chopping twin sister Becky travel to Oz and try to prove themselves worthy of staying.  The Kleins (Jews in Oz? well, why not?) are more memorable than Tom and Twink of The Shaggy Man of Oz (1949), although it is jarring at times to have '90s (or maybe it's '80s, see below) preteens commenting on Oz traditions, from girls wearing skirts to the etiquette of males and females sharing a tent.  Also, in the illustrations, Barry wears his baseball-cap backward.  (I wanted Cher from Clueless to comment.)

One of the plot threads is that Betsy Bobbin is going to celebrate her 75th anniversary in Oz.  And at one point Barry guesses that Trot arrived around 1914.  We know that Betsy got there shortly before Trot, in 1914's book Tik-Tok of Oz.  So this is roughly 1988?  Maybe Hulan thought that 75th sounded better than 80th, and after all we don't know which anniversary Dorothy was celebrating in Thompson's Ozoplaning, so I'll cut him some slack on that.  

Betsy wants the people (and dragon) she met on her first adventure to come to her party, so the title character visits Oogaboo and finds out that the Bad Lads of Brookville are planning to conquer that tiny queendom.  A small rescue party is formed, with Barry and Becky helping out.  Barry's learned how to pronounce "Pyrzqxgl," so that's a big help.  (Hulan is as coy as Baum about the pronunciation.)  

Hulan's writing is more intelligent than that of Neill, Snow, or Cosgrove, but I didn't feel like the plotting was very good.  And I do have to say that Cowville (why not Cowtown?) is one of the duller spots in Oz, and the Elsie the Cow joke ranks down there with Snow's Charlie McCarthy reference.  On the other hand, the comparison of the Tin Woodman's statue of Dorothy to Judy Garland is extra meta, considering that the illustration in Road was Neill's commentary on Denslow.

Ah, yes, illustration.  I would probably give this a B- if it weren't for O'Connor.  He's not as dreadful as Kramer or Dirk, but he's at best competent.  I didn't like how the twins' freckles look like pimples that are about to burst.  I didn't think he captured any of the Ozites, even Bungle, who, let's face it, can't be that hard to draw.  I was amused that he gave Salye milkmaid's cleavage on p. 37, especially since there's some mild sexual tension later between her and the oldest Bad Lad.  Not the one whose bottom is briefly bared.

Oh, yeah, perhaps because this book is inspired by Tik-Tok, all the chapter titles are alliterative, the longest being "Trot's Team Takes on the Twins."

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