Once Upon a Time Children’s Annual 1920

Once Upon a Time Children's Annual 1920 including 'Flip-Flap The Great Oojah' and 'The Pigmy Pirates'

This is a wonderful annual full of all kinds of stories and cartoons, not just of the Oojah variety. I enjoyed ‘A Real Bad Boy’s Day’ and some of the illustrations for other stories such as the one featuring a shaving brush flying a steam powered bicycle. There are also some great one-off cartoons such as the address of the President of the National Union of Mice to his comrades.

The two Oojah stories that do appear are among the best ever. There is a somewhat extended version of ‘Flip-Flap the Great Oojah’ which appeared as a book the same year, published by McLelland & Stewart in Toronto as part of the Twilight series for Little Folk. This annual was published by E. Hulton and Co Ltd, the publishers of the Daily Sketch where Flip-Flap, The Great Oojah, made his first ever appearance on 18 February 1919.

In the Once Upon a Time annual version of ‘Flip-Flap, The Great Oojah’ there are several illustrations not included in the McLelland and Stewart publication. They are single colour but on much better quality paper. There are also two lovely colour plates, one for each of the two Oojah stories plus some relating to other features in the annual. The breadth of the story and the imaginative devices used exceed what you will find in virtually any other Oojah story. There is a nasty villain called One-Eye and some sinister side-kicks such as the Raven Bogie. This is a full-blown children’s fantasy rather than the slapstick stories of the 1930s annuals. It is dramatic too. There are plenty of skirmishes with real danger and Oojah comes across as a more awe-inspiring creature rather than the lovable, forgetful buffoon of later years.

The second Oojah story is another published originally as part the Twilight Series, although I have not found a copy of it in book form. This is ‘The Pigmy Pirates’. Again, there are single colour illustrations and one full colour plate. Oojah is adopted by pigmy pirates, loses his hat and his pyjamas to a gambolling porpoise, sinks a friendly pirate ship by mistake, gets lost and is found again and shrinks to pigmy size, amongst other adventures. This is a less sinister story than the first one and it is a shame Old One-Eye never makes a come-back as he brought a sense of real menace lacking elsewhere in the Oojah stories. The Crying Crocodile in ‘The Oojah’s Treasure Trunk in 1927’ is a pussy cat by comparison. Nevertheless, it is still highly imaginative and entertaining and Thomas Maybank’s illustrations are as evocative as ever.