Saturday, February 02, 2019

A NEW New Wonderland

I don't normally post items about new books here, as there are just so many of them it's impossible to keep up. (I'm at least a decade behind in buying and reading many of them.) But this one is just too important not to mention here. And you all got a little sneak peek at it during my short story reviews a few months ago, so I feel obligated to tell you about it anyway: The first book L. Frank Baum wrote for children is back in print again after 119 years! Originally entitled Tales from Phunnyland, he wrote it some time before 1896, and based it on some of the stories he would tell his sons and their friends before bedtime. Publishers weren't interested in it at the time, but after the success of Father Goose: His Book, publishers approached Baum, and he dusted off that first book and offered it to R. H. Russell. To make it appeal to buyers who would have also bought Alice in Wonderlnad, they changed the title to A New Wonderland, and commissioned Frank Ver Beck to illustrate it. It apparently didn't do terribly well, as there was only one edition. A few years later, when Bobbs-Merrill became Baum's primary publisher, they changed the name of the country and reprinted the book as The Magical Monarch of Mo, which was available for nearly forty years. The short life and small number of copies of A New Wonderland made it an expensive book for collectors to find, but now it is much easier to at least see what it is all about, thanks to this new edition published by From Alice to Oz, Ltd. All of the color illustrations are in there, in the proper places (unlike the Dover edition of The Magical Monarch of Mo, which has all the color plates as a single gathering in the middle), and it is a solid, well put-together book. The price may seem a little steep for what you get, but it's about one fiftieth of the price you'd pay for a first edition, so if you want this book. this is your best bet. But if the current price is still a little steep for you, keep your eye on that link, because W. Neal Thompson, the man responsible for this reprint, is also looking into paperback and grayscale editions that would not cost so much.

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