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The Magical Monarch of Mo by L. Frank Baum
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The Magical Monarch of Mo

by L. Frank Baum

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I probably first read this book when I was seven or eight years old, when it was my great fortune that Dover reprinted several of L. Frank Baum's non-Oz fantasies in easy-to-afford paperback editions. Although this wasn't my favorite of the bunch, I always liked The Magical Monarch of Mo, and I'm pleased to find out - twenty-five years later - that I still find it very enjoyable. These stories find Baum in transition as a storyteller; they were originally published as A New Wonderland in 1900, and they were slightly revised and reprinted as Mo in 1903. Consequently, they show a stage of Baum's evolution that clearly predates The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; he's playing, here, with established European fairy tale figures and motifs (princes, princesses, dragons, giants, and so on) and just barely turning them on their head. It's not as significant, nor as Americanized, a shift as the "fairy tale" he creates with Wizard, but it's far more Baum's own thing than his 1896 Mother Goose in Prose. There's a very pleasing amount of his punning humor and pragmatic magical logic in The Magical Monarch of Mo - enough, in fact, that you can clearly identify this as writing by the far more famous and individually styled author of almost twenty years later.

Of the fourteen "surprises" (not all of which are really long enough or deep enough to qualify as individual stories), some are quite forgettable, while one or two probably could have been left out to the book's benefit. The best of them, though, are marvelously nonsensical: the adventure of the King's missing head, the Prince's fight against the Gigaboo, and the fight with the Purple Dragon. Any one of these show off the great potential Baum had at that moment in time, which he would soon find a way to transmit directly into his own, distinctly American fairy stories of Oz. ( )
  saroz | May 17, 2016 |
Collection of fantasy short stores linked by a common setting in Mo. ( )
  antiquary | Feb 3, 2014 |
In 1896, L. Frank Baum wrote a children’s book he called The king of Phunnyland which was published four years later with the title A new wonderland. This was the same year that his most famous book, The wizard of Oz, was released. That book became very popular and a few years later, to capitalize on that success, a new publisher released the Phunnyland book again, this time with the title The surprising adventures of the magical monarch of Mo and his people. The only change he made to the text was the new name for his land. He also adjusted some of the description. The book still was in fourteen chapters or, as he called them, surprises. Some of Frank Ver Beck’s illustrations, both color plates and black and white text drawings, from the original publication were included in the new edition with some additions. My edition is the facsilmile Dover edition which reproduces the 1903 text and uses all of Ver Beck’s illustrations. It also has an excellent introduction by Martin Gardner.

The surprises are tales of Mo, its people and some of their adventures. The inhabitants do not need to work since most everything grows on trees, including violins and bicycles along with food and clothing. There is a root beer river and ponds of custard. There is no money needed. Also I must tell you that no one ever dies in Mo, so when the king went after the Purple Dragon for eating the chocolate caramels before they were ripe, and lost his head, he just needed to have a new one made. Prince Jollikin loses his legs, arms and head but eventually finds them all. Princess Pattycake is given a pill by a good sorceress to cure her bad temper. Prince Fiddlecumdoo visits a friendly giant and is accidentally put through the giantess’s wringer washer. The solution – drill a hole in his head and pump him full of air. Then there is the Turvyland where everything is upside down and contradictory. The Duchess Bredenbutta has a nice but bewildering visit. The book abounds with illogic and puns galore.

Although written for a different generation of children, today’s younger folk will not be put off by these stories. After all, they are used to Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner as well as Popeye, Daffy Duck and other cartoon characters. No matter what befalls, they are always OK. And the truly evil in these stories, like the Purple Dragon and King Scowleyow, do have to accept the consequences of their actions.

As a child, Baum’s Oz works were popular due to the first TV showing of The Wizard of Oz . The local public library had some of the Oz books and we devoured them all. Had I read The magical monarch of Mo at the time, I would have liked it as much then as I do now. ( )
  fdholt | Apr 26, 2013 |
It's a shame that Baum's Oz stories have been so popular as to eclipse his other work. When Baum became tired of Oz (which he did quickly), and wanted to move on, he did this next. You will see in Baum's titles definite parallels: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Magical Monarch of Mo, Queen Zixi of Ix--all one-syllable places with a polysyllabic, titled person "of" there. The Magical Monarch of Mo will appeal to anyone who likes any of Baum's tales, for they all have much the same flavor (save, possibly, his Santa Claus tales, which rise a bit above the lot in styling). It is certainly great reading for children, and has the added virtue that it will be something new.
  owlcroft | Jan 24, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
L. Frank Baumprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Copelman, EvelynIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gardner, MartinIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ver Beck, FrankIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To the Comrade of my boyhood days Dr. Henry Clay Baum
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I dare say there are several questions you would like to ask at the very beginning of this history.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The book was written in 1896 with the title: The king of Phunnyland. When first published, in 1900 (the same year as The Wizard of Oz), the title was changed to: A new wonderland. In 1903, the title was changed again to The magicial monarch of Mo and all place names in the book changed to Mo.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0486218929, Paperback)

Adventures in a land even stranger than Oz. Best Baum not in Oz series. 118 illustrations.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:02 -0400)

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