Saturday, September 20, 2008

A book you definitely should NOT buy

This post is a warning to all of you hardcore Oz and Baum fans out there, but it's going to take some background, so bear with me for a bit. The first children's book L. Frank Baum ever wrote, in 1896, was a collection of silly stories called Tales from Phunniland. It was not the first book to be published, however. After his first few minor successes, however, it finally saw print in 1900 as A New Wonderland. Then, after Bobbs-Merrill became his primary publishers, it was re-issued in 1903 as The Magical Monarch of Mo. This book, however, had a few changes. The name of the country was changed from Phunniland to Mo, the ruler was changed from a king to a monarch (mostly for alliteration), and Baum wrote a new introduction. The book has been available as The Magical Monarch of Mo ever since, including a Dover reprint in the late '60s. So I know the stories, but I've never read the original Phunniland versions.

A few months ago, I noticed this listing on Amazon for a new edition of A New Wonderland, and recently ordered it, thinking this would be an excellent opportunity to finally read that original version. It arrived the other day, and what did I find inside? First, it's an unillustrated cheap print-on-demand edition. That didn't bother me much, as I was really just interested in the text. But when I started skimming, I found out that it was not A New Wonderland at all, but The Magical Monarch of Mo. It had the same introduction, and the country was named Mo, not Phunniland. It even carried a 1903 date and a notice on the copyright page, "Also published as The Magical Monarch of Mo." So what was the point of calling it A New Wonderland? Needless to say, I am extremely disappointed, and I did something that I don't think I have ever done before: I am sending the book back. I don't need this at all. It doesn't offer me anything new that I don't already have, and I am quite unhappy at the deceptive labeling.

If you want to read about Mo, get the Dover edition. Yes, it's still in print. It's not only cheaper than this rip-off that I bought, it has the original illustrations by Frank Ver Back, including the color plates. It also has a stronger, higher-quality binding. Most importantly, however, is it's cheaper! Now, however, I still have to wait to read A New Wonderland.

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