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The Wonder City of Oz

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Wondercityofoz
Written by  John R. Neill
Illustrator  John R. Neill
Published  1940
Publisher  Reilly & Lee

The Wonder City of Oz is the thirty-fourth volume in the Oz book series. It is the first Oz book written by regular illustrator John R. Neill.

Summary

New Jersey girl Jenny Jump captures a leprechaun named Siko Pompus (apparently a pun on "psychopomp") and forces him to make her into a fairy; but he only does the job halfway before escaping. Jenny then jumps all the way to the Land of Oz using her half-fairy gifts. She lands in the carriage of Princess Ozma during a parade — and quickly expresses a desire to be a queen herself.

Jenny displays a bold, tempestuous nature; when she loses her temper she spits flames from her mouth. Yet she is also enterprising and resourceful; she soon sets up a Style Shop with a magic turnstyle that gives fashion makeovers. (Pun: the turnstyle turns styles.) Jenny half-adopts a Munchkin boy called Number Nine (he's the ninth of fourteen children). The boy is overwhlemed by the force of Jenny's personality, and she treats him like a slave.

Jenny is selfish and disruptive, a natural troublemaker. The Wizard removes her fairy abilities and starts making her younger. Jenny has her good points too: she saves the Emerald City from conquest by an army of chocolate soldiers. Yet her ambition lures her into running against Ozma in an "Ozlection" to choose the ruler of Oz. It is clear that Ozma will win any fair election by a landslide — but a landslide is a dangerous thing to have in the Emerald City. So Prof. Woggle-Bug cooks up a more random choice, in which citizens are weighed on scales to determine their votes. In the end, the Ozlection is exactly a tie, with a precisely equal number of votes cast for the two candidates. Only one person is left to vote: it is the leprechaun Siko Pompus. He assures Jenny that he is her friend, and then he steps forward to cast the deciding vote...for Ozma. He claims he acts in Jenny's interest, to save her "a heap of responsibility."

Jenny is so irate at this outcome that she causes chaos in the city. She releases the tigers from tiger-lilies, the lions from "dandy-lions," the bulls from bullrushes, etc., to rampage through the streets. The Wizard resolves matters with his magic. He extracts Jenny's bad temper, envy, and ambition, so that these faults no longer plague her (and everyone else). The Wizard makes her faults take visible form: bad temper is a black wasp, envy is a green snake, and ambition is a fat red toad.

Jenny is delighted with the change in her: "How grand I feel!" Ozma and Glinda make Jenny a Duchess of Oz; and now she is young and carefree enough to be a fitting companion for Number Nine. Finally, Jenny's leprechaun godfather gives her back her fairy gifts, in externalized and material forms: "an ivory-handled eyeglass for one eye" that provides fairy sight, plus a pair of rose-colored gloves, "a golden slipper for her left foot, and a pair of thistle-down earmuffs" that enable her other fairy powers.

Background

Editing

The published text of The Wonder City of Oz is radically different from what Neill originally wrote. An anonymous editor at Reilly & Lee made sweeping revisions in Neill's book: the entire "Ozlection" episode is the result of this editorial interference. Neill illustrated none of the developments in that plotline.

Tone

With his first act of Oz authorship, Neill introduced a dramatic change in tone from the prior works of Baum and Thompson. His work is wildly imaginative, but chaotic and undisciplined. Notions proliferate like weeds and die away like wisps of mist; zany events occur in a paragraph, and are forgotten.

Neill's "wonder city" version of Baum's Emerald City has skyscrapers and gas stations. Normally inanimate objects act alive: houses talk and fight, shoes sing (they have tongues), and clocks run. Neill's frenetic absurdist humor suggests the Marx Brothers more than the gentler rhythm and the simple humanity of Baum.

Geography

In a prefatory note addressed to the book's child readers, Neill states that he and his family live in Flanders, New Jersey, near Jenny Jump Mountain and the Jenny Jump State Forest in the northwestern region of the state.

References

External links


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Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz The Scalawagons of Oz

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