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The Wonderful O

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By James Thurber

Black and Littlejack are bad men. Littlejack has a map that indicates the existence of a treasure on a far and lonely island. He needs a ship to get there. Black has a ship. So they team up and sail off on Black’s vessel, the Aeiu. “A weird uncanny name,” remarks Littlejack, “like a nightbird screaming.” Black explains that it’s all the vowels except for O. O he hates since his mother got wedged in a porthole. They couldn’t pull her in so they had to push her out.

Black and Littlejack arrive at the port of the far and lonely island and demand the treasure. No one knows anything about it, so they have their henchmen ransack the place—to no avail. But Black has a better idea: he will take over the island and he will purge it of O.

The vicissitudes visited on the islanders by Black and Littlejack, the harsh limits of a life sans O (where shoe is she and woe is we), and how finally with a little luck and lots of pluck the islanders shake off their tyrannical interlopers and discover the true treasure for themselves (Oh yes—and get back their O’s)—these are only some of the surprises that await readers of James Thurber’s timelessly zany fairy tale about two louts who try to lock up the language—and lose. 

Hardcover, 80 pages


The Wonderful O is a tale for children, and a reminder for adults, of the joys of love, liberty, language and, not least, humor. It has pirates and treasure and magic and a message that especially in complacent times must not be forgotten...The Wonderful O is a book worth finding, wherever you can, and reading, as one of its characters concludes, “lest we forget.”
— The Wall Street Journal

A playful allegory on love, valor and freedom, and a ceaseless romp with wordplay.
— Publishers Weekly

O, wonderful! James Thurber’s grown-up kids’ books, The Wonderful O and The 13 Clocks, long out of print, are back—rich with ogres and oligarchs, riddles and wit. What distinguishes them is not just quixotic imagination but Thurber’s inimitable delight in language. The stories beg to be read aloud...Thurber captivates the ear and captures the heart.
— Newsweek

Handsomely reprinted, for children who can spell well, is James Thurber’s 1957 story The Wonderful O, about a tyrannical pirate who bans everything on an island that contains the letter O—because his mother was once stuck in a porthole, with tragic consequences. Full of word lists and wordplay, with charming illustrations by Marc Simont, it is a verbally ambitious little classic for logophiles. Or, as the pirate would have it, lgphiles.
— The Sunday Times (London)

Among James Thurber’s 30 books were several for children. Two reader favorites of the Fifties, The Thirteen Clocks and The Wonderful O, have returned, illustrations by Marc Simont intact. These are funny, richly textured stories that pile on the fantasy and will make middle readers laugh a lot.
— The Record (NJ)

The Wonderful O and The 13 Clocks...witty, funny, imaginative tales which will earn Thurber a new generation of admirers.
— The Baton Rouge Sunday Advocate

The loveliest and liveliest of parables. The end is a real surprise.
— Harper’s Magazine

A dazzling feat of verbal virtuosity, with frequent lapses into interior rhyme.
— Library Journal

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