Saturday, December 12, 2020

This Week's Oz Short Story

The second story from the 2019 issue of Oziana is "Bitsy, the Patchwork Cat of Oz" by Jane Albright, with illustrations by Steve Smith. Scraps is wearing out, as some of her patches have been covered over numerous times over the past century. So she agrees to an overhaul, carried out in part by a clever Winkie seamstress named Hidha. Hidha uses many of the old patches to make a stuffed cat for her doughter, Catherine. All seems to go well after Hidha and Catherine (whom Scraps nicknames Cat, of course) return home, but Scraps is listless, and everyone realizes that so many of Scraps' original patches are gone, thus affecting the spell that animates her. So the Wizard uses a reanimating spell on her, that then also brings Catherine's patchwork cat to life! Now named Bitsy, it makes sense to us, since Bitsy is made up of bits of Scraps. Hidha and Cat don't know this, however, and are worried that something might happen to them, or Bitly, if it's ever determined that Bitsy is the result of illegal magic. But back in the Emerald City, now that Scraps is back to her old self, plans are underway for the Wizard and Dorothy to go on a balloon trip to update the maps of Oz. Scraps comes along as an ambassador. All goes well, but when they reach the souhern Winkie Country, Cat hears about them, and decides to take her case to the Wizard and plead to let her keep Bitsy. Bitsy follows, wondering where Cat is off to and, unbenownst to either of them, Hidha follows them, too. All gets worked out in the end, Dorothy and the Wizard assure Cat that nothing's going to happen to Bitsy, and everyoen has a happy ending.

This is only the bare outline of the story, as Albright packs her Oz with all kinds of great characters who just happen to be ordinary Ozites, and not celebrities living in the palace. The opening scene with Scraps calling Dorothy too dignified, and Dorothy's acknowledgement that she can't do everything that Scraps can, is a great character study. I also like how Albright gives Dorothy something to do on the balloon trip, namely drawing the sights. We don't usually see Dorothy partaking in any hobbies, so this is a nice touch. Bitsy is adorable, and a shoemaker named Bert also has a role in events. I also like how the main events surrounding Bitsy's creation and early life weave in and out of all the other stuff that happens in the Emerald City. One gets a good feel for what ordinary life in Oz must be like in this story. Of course, I would expect nothing less from the President of the International Wizard of Oz Club!

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