|Written by||L. Frank Baum|
|Illustrator||John R. Neill|
|Publisher||Reilly & Britton|
Sky Island is a fantasy novel written by L. Frank Baum and published in 1912. It is a sequel to The Sea Fairies and, although it is not one of the Oz books, it does have some connections to the Land of Oz.
Baum dedicated the book to his sister, Mary Louise Baum Brewster.
Trot and Cap'n Bill meet Button-Bright near their home on the California coast. The boy has been using his grandfather's Magic Umbrella to take journeys from his Philadelphia home; it has transported him to his present location. After an explanation of the umbrella's function, the three new friends decide to take a trip to a nearby island. Trot and the Cap'n call it "sky island," because it looks like it is "halfway in the sky" — but the umbrella flies them to another place entirely, a literal sky island.
The place is divided into two contrasting countries, separated by a Fog Bank. The three travelers land on the blue side of Sky Island, to find it a grim country of Blueskins. They are ruled by a sadistic tyrant, the Boolooroo of the Blues. He amuses himself by splitting his subjects into halves, then joining the disparate halves together to create miserably mixed individuals. This is called "patching." The Boolooroo threatens to do the same to his human visitors; meanwhile he imprisons the Cap'n and Button-Bright, and gives Trot as a slave to his daughters, the Six Snubnosed Princesses (named Cerulia, Turquoise, Sapphire, Azure, Cobalt, and Indigo). They plan to use Trot as a human pincushion.
The three visitors manage to escape from the Blues; penetrating the Great Fog Bank, they reach the pink or sunrise side of Sky Island. The pink country has chubby cheerful residents, who regard the newcomers as sort of pink, though of a sadly pale shade. Still, the laws of the country demand that visitors be put to death; even the ruler, the sylph-like Tourmaline the Poverty Queen, cannot pardon them. (Among the fabulously wealthy Pinkies, only the ruler lives in want; Tourmaline has been sentenced to the job, because she is the thinnest member of the populace.)
In the nick of time, Polychrome arrives to prevent the execution. In the topsy-turvy value system of the Pinkies, Trot is selected their queen, since her pale skin makes the disadvantaged girl the least pink person among them. (Tourmaline retires to private life, and vast riches.) After Cap'n Bill leads an invasion and conquest of the island's opposite side, Trot becomes "Booloorooess" of the Blues as well; she uses her new power to "regulate" both societies into more sensible forms.
The three visitors eventually return home, more than a little relieved to escape from Sky Island.
Button-Bright and Polychrome were introduced in The Road to Oz, and they appear in Sky Island to juice up sales (the first Trot book had been an anemic performer in the marketplace). Several years later, in The Scarecrow of Oz, the main characters, Trot and Cap'n Bill, come to stay in the Land of Oz.
Baum employs the Blues vs. Pinks scheme of Sky Island for ironic and satiric commentary on xenophobia, isolationism, race and color prejudice, and personal vanity. The Blues are certain that their dismal half-island "is the Center of the Universe and the only place anyone would care to live." Their scientists have "proven" that the Earth below is a ball of mud and water that cannot support life. The Snubnosed Princesses (ghastly looking by human standards) think that a snub nose is "the highest mark of female beauty" and "an evidence of high breeding which any lady would be proud to possess."
Even with the addition of Oz characters, Sky Island met with a lackluster response from the public; it sold only 11,750 copies in 1912, even less than The Sea Fairies of the previous year, and far below the previously performance of the Oz books. (The Emerald City of Oz had sold 20,000 copies in its first year in print.) Poor performance of the Trot books, and other series that Baum was writing in the 1911–12 period, inspired him and his publisher to return to Oz the following year, with The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1913).
In 1918, though, Baum wrote privately that he thought Sky Island would likely be remembered as his best book.
- L. Frank Baum. The Annotated Wizard of Oz. Michael Patrick Hearn, ed. New York, W. W. Norton, 2000.
- Patrick M. Maund. "Bibliographia Baumiana: Sky Island." The Baum Bugle, Vol. 39 No. 2 (Autumn 1995).
- Katharine M. Rogers. L. Frank Baum, Creator of Oz: A Biography. New York, St. Martin's Press, 2002.