So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Boy Fortune Hunters in the South Seas. L. Frank Baum

Originally published in 1911 under the pseudonym Floyd Akers, Hungry Tiger press makes this volume in The Boy Fortune Hunters Series by L. Frank Baum available again with a new Foreward by David Maxine and a new cover illustration by Eric Shanower. The author wrote various adventure series under pseudonyms, while publishing his more famous Oz novels under his own name.

In this volume the boy fortune hunters take a job running guns from Australia for wealthy Colombians who are planning a revolution. The guns come in handy when they end up run aground during a typhoon on a tropical island full of hostile natives who worship a Pearl God. They have the richest pearl beds in the world and keep them secret by killing anyone who lands there.

Fortunately the Columbians have a Louis Bleriot Antoinette biplane in crates below deck. Louis Bleriot was famous in Baum's time because in 1909 he was the first person to fly across the English Channel. Using the biplane to fly themselves in and out of trouble with the local islanders, the boys have life-threatening adventures and stuff their pockets with lovely pearls.

The book's leading characters are full of White supremacist attitudes that jar the sensibilities of modern readers. However Baum relates these with an innocence that would be difficult to recreate today. In addition to being an adventure tale for young white boys, the book provides an interesting look into how racial stereotypes were presented at the beginning of the 20th century.


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