Thursday, May 14, 2009

10 Books A Day: #25

The Magical Monarch of Mo...L. Frank Baum...Dover
Queen Zixi of Ix...L. Frank Baum...Dover

Worzel Gummidge...Barbara Euphan Todd...Oxford University Press

The Marvellous Land of Snergs...E. A. Wyke-Smith...Dover

The Secret Garden...Frances Hodgson Burnett...Wordsworth Editions

Bed-Knob and Broomstick...Mary Norton...Scholastic Book Services

The Enchanted Castle...E. Nesbit...Harper Festival

The Phoenix and the Carpet...E. Nesbit...Dell Yearling Classic

The Midnight Folk...John Masefield...Dell Yearling Classic

The Box of Delights...John Masefield...Dell Yearling Special
Today we begin a stretch of "children's books"--"juvenile fiction"--whatever not quite right term you want to use for this kind of writing that can be enjoyed by anyone of any age. Many of these books, beside being great reads, are also important in fantasy literary history, as influences and inspirations.
L. Frank Baum, besides writing The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (and thirteen other Oz books besides) wrote dozens of other books, many under different pseudonyms. Ix and Mo, which were written after Oz, and before he ever wrote an Oz sequel, contain characters who later made guest appearances in various Oz books; Baum seems to be another writer whose works all belong somehow to the same continuum.
Before there was Bilbo the Hobbit there was Gorbo the Snerg, in The Marvellous Land of Snergs, an influence that Tolkien himself gratefully acknowledged. Snergs are a short race who enjoy parties and celebrations, and who live in a land apart rather more similar to Neverland than Middle-Earth. It is inhabited by witches and ogres, and the Flying Dutchman and his crew have a berth there as well as Miss Watkyns, who supplies a home for superfluous or unwanted children. It is the adventure of two of these children, Joe and Sylvia, their antagonism with the witch Mother Meldrum, and their help by Gorbo, that the book details. This obscure but good little book has only been reprinted lately (for the first time in 70 years or so) because of the revived interest in the "roots" of JRRT.
E. Nesbit was a similar model for C. S. Lewis, as any reader turning from her books to the Narnia Chronicles can easily see. Here are my older copies of Masefield's books, as well as the first in the series of the Worzel Gummidge books. I first read (and got my copy of) Bed-knob and Broomstick when I was in fourth grade, about the same time as Disney's movie Bedknobs and Broomsticks came out. The book is actually two of Mary Norton's books put together, both dealing with adventures of the same characters.

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