In Mo it just doesn't work. Baum describes the titular character as "not very tall, nor is he very short; he is midway between fat and lean; he is delightfully jolly when he is not sad, and seldom sad if he can possibly be jolly. How old he may be I have never dared to inquire..."
But Copelman's realism kills off Baum's whimsical mystery. She has provided a very specific Monarch, a real-looking young man made of flesh and blood. On the cover (above) he's actually kind of cute!
A few of Copelman's pictures are just not very good either. The painting showing the King having lost his head and pursued by the Purple Dragon is badly composed. It looks as if the Monarch might still have a head - that it's just hidden behind the limb of the tree.
Perhaps this was a request on the publisher's part, to keep gore to a minimum. Therein lies one of the problems in turning a nonsense book into realism. That said, until seeing the Copelman illustrations, I never would have imagined the Magical Monarch as having cute legs!
Somehow it's both fascinating and jarring too see the strawberry lily-pads growing in the cream at the edge of the Milk River.
Does this illustration style make Baum's text come to life, or does it kill the mental imagery of the reader? I remember when I first saw this image I thought, "Wow! So that's what it would look like!" But this was followed by a certain "Ewww..." factor.
But take a good look at the way Copelman painted these two kids, especially the one on the left. Look at their clothing, their faces. I'll come back to that in a bit.
In the late 1990s I got to meet Evelyn Copelman at an Oz Convention. She was only in her late 70s at the time. She was very young when she illustrated The Wizard of Oz. It was her first major job. That weekend she autographed many people's copies of The Wizard of Oz - she signed one for me, too. But I was the only one I saw who had also brought along The Magical Monarch of Mo. She signed it "Best Mo wishes, Evelyn Copelman." I was quite pleased.
So take a look again at the boy and girl sitting on the banks of the Milk River and then look at the picture below. It adds a whole new perspective on these Mo illustrations - almost like Sally, Dick and Jane get to go to Fairyland!
|Original drawing by Evelyn Copelman for a Sally, Dick, and Jane reader.|