It’s been a while since I’ve done a Baum review, so let’s do this.
The illustrator of the first Oz book was WW Denslow. If you recall, he illustrated only the very first Oz book before John Neill took over in book two and illustrated over 30 Oz books in his career. Denslow and Baum had a falling out in 1902 over royalties from the first Wizard of Oz musical. However, before that happened, Denslow had also illustrated Baum’s books By the Candelabra Glare, Father Goose: His Book and another children’s fantasy story called Dot and Tot of Merryland.
Dot and Tot of Merryland was published in 1901, the very next year after The Wonderful Wizard of Oz although it was actually written around the same time. As I mentioned, the book is a children’s fantasy book written in the same style as Wizard. Child protagonists visit a magical fairy land and must find their way back home when they become trapped there.
Yes, that sounds awfully familiar but it’s Baum style, it’s straight up in his wheelhouse. He managed to make this concept work for like four or five of his Oz books, so I’m not too worried he’ll make it work here.
The story begins with Dot who is a bit of a sickly child. She’s sent to live in her father’s palatial mansion in the outskirts of town. While there she has the run of the estate. She starts playing with the gardener’s little boy, Tot. They are having a picnic out by the stream that runs through the back yard and they are swept away in a rowboat which takes them through a tunnel in the mountains where they emerge in a fairy land called Merryland. They meet a crazy cast of characters including a guy with long whiskers called the “Watchdog” that oversees the entrance to Merryland and they meet the ruler of the land who is a walking, talking wax doll. Dot and Tot are adopted by the queen and go with her to tour the seven valleys of Merryland.