Fwiirp in Oz, by Nate Barlow, Jeff Barstock, Ryan Gannaway, Greg Hunter, Phyllis Ann Karr, R.K. Lionel, Marcus Mebes, Hugh Pendexter III, and Chris Dulabone – Wow, that’s a lot of authors for such a short book! No, seriously, the reason for the multiple authors is that this is one of the Skeezique books, which combine an Oz plot with a lot of unrelated fiction. The stories vary in quality, with Karr’s one about the vampire who sings in a church choir being my favorite. Pendexter’s story about Mars is also pretty good, but seems to be missing some key information. The framing story, which is the only real Oz content, is pretty weak, though. It’s based on Barlow’s idea about an author ruining Oz by writing a story on magical paper, but what remains of it doesn’t really go anywhere. In a way, I think it might have been preferable to just release this as a collection of short fiction by people who have written Oz books and left out this plot entirely. Mind you, I’m not sure I would have bought it if that had been the case, but it would have made more sense.
The Amber Flute of Oz, by Donald Abbott – I believe I’ve now read all of Abbott’s Oz books. Like Magic Chest, Father Goose, and Speckled Rose, it’s an adventure set during the Scarecrow’s reign over the Emerald City. That must have been a much more eventful period than L. Frank Baum let on. The Scarecrow once again teams up with the Tin Woodman and Cowardly Lion to combat a threat to Oz, and Glinda plays a significant role as well. I appreciate the historical context in this one, as the plot relies on something a magician king named Ozgood did 500 years previously. Blinkie, the Wicked Witch from Scarecrow, uses her magic to wake the Sand Serpent that Ozgood created and then put into an enchanted sleep when it became destructive. Abbott spells out that Blinkie was the official Wicked Witch of the South, or at least one of the contenders for that title. He also tells us that she lost one of her eyes casting the dangerous Charm of Shadows. The Witch teams up with a rascally magician named Ozwaldo, who also happens to be the only living descendant of King Ozgood. Abbott manages to fit a significant amount of plot into a pretty short tale.
The Giant Chinchilla of Oz, by Andrew J. Heller – Jason Brant, a boy who has recently moved from California to New Jersey, discovers a chest of magic in his attic. He uses this magic to transport to Oz and travel in the company of Button-Bright, a squid who used to work as a cab driver, and a magically enlarged chinchilla named Andy. According to his biography on Amazon, the author has a pet chinchilla, and this is one of the few kinds of animal that HADN’T already had an adventure in Oz. There was a good amount of fairly direct satire that reminded me of The Phantom Tollbooth. The bit with the Lesser of Two Weevils is very much in that style, while the Multi-Land and Kingdom of Style episodes comment on some of the shallowness of society. The dialogue has a modern feel, which is fine for non-Ozites like Jason, but seems a little out of place for Button-Bright and some of the others. There’s some humor in Professor Wogglebug being unable to speak in a non-pretentious fashion without magical assistance, and Harvey the squid conversed in a vaudevillian manner reminiscent of King Anko in The Sea Fairies. Hey, maybe they knew each other back in Harvey’s ocean days. There’s an interesting development in Harvey’s desire to start a cab company in Oz, which had sort of already been tried with the Scalawagons.