29 May 2007

Meeting John Dough and the Cherub

Hungry Tiger Press has just announced the publication of its centennial edition of John Dough and the Cherub, written by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill. This edition comes with a new, full-color cover; black and white reproductions of all the original illustrations; and an introduction by, well, me.

When Baum wrote John Dough and the Cherub in 1906 (yes, the math for a centennial edition doesn't quite work out, but the book was a production headache), he had written two Oz books and didn't expect to write any more. But his publisher persuaded him to return to the land of his most popular books the next year.

That in turn opened up the exciting possibility of cross-marketing. In The Road to Oz (1909), Baum brought the rulers of many of the other fairylands he'd invented to the Emerald City. No matter that such a gathering left no room for a plot in that part of the book. No matter that some of those earlier books implied that the rulers had grown up and perhaps even passed on. Everyone got an invitation to Ozma's birthday party. (And for me as a young reader, the result was one of my favorite books in the series. Someday I'll figure that out.)

The illustration on the cover of the Hungry Tiger Press edition comes from the interior of Road to Oz, for the first time rendered in vivid color. It shows, left to right and foreground to background, John Dough, the American-made gingerbread man; the gender-neutral Incubator Baby named Chick the Cherub; Para Bruin, a bouncy rubber bear; and loyal subjects from Loland and Hiland. To learn how they all met, you'll just have to read the book.

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