The Children of Funbeam

Another great story from the very eary days of the Great Oojah. The forgetful elephant takes off on a magical trip to the land of Funbeam with his faithful kitten-cat, Snooker and his Hum Jum Jarum, Don. Funbeam is peopled by children who seem to be happy and playful all the time. But all is not well. It is not long before the ‘stranger children’ sow discord. The conflict escalates with the intervention of the maladroit Pouncing Panther. Like other, very early Oojah stories, this one has a dark side. Once the annuals got into their stride, the conflicts tended to involve a more slapstick style of violence. Here there is actual malice, death and destruction, although brief and still very tame by modern standards.

Oojah, once reminded of his magic powers, manages to magic his way out of most of the trouble. We meet the Raven Bogie once more and Don saves a princess with the help of Oojah’s magic. Snooker, the kitten-cat, soon establishes a positive relationship with the sparrow imp (who also appeared in the original ‘Flip-Flap, The Great Oojah’) despite an early suggestion that he should be made into sparrow pie .

This is a beautifully illustrated small book which was published in 1920 by The James McCann Company, this time in New York (Flip-Flap, The Great Oojah’ was published by the same publisher but in Toronto). I am still trawling the internet and bookshops for more books in the Twilight series as these seem to be quite distinctive in style from the later annuals and have a surreal charm all of their own. They are imaginative, unpredictable and wild rather than formulaic. By the 1930s the Uncle Oojah stories, though still charming, were occasionally obvious and a bit tame.

Several of the Twilight stories seem to have been included in very early annuals (see ‘Once Upon a Time Children’s Annual’ from 1920 and 1921 and also ‘The Joy Book Children’s Annual 1922). I have yet to find any of these other than ‘Flip-Flap’ and ‘The Children of Funbeam’ printed in their own volume. At the time of writing there is a re-bound copy of most of ‘Flip-Flap’s Wonderground’ but it is not clear whether this is a book from the Twilight series, or a cannibalised extract from an annual. We know that the next story in the Twilight series is ‘The Wonderman’ which is certainly included in ‘Once Upon a Time Children’s Annual 1921’,  because there is a reference at the beginning of that story to the ending of ‘The Children of Funbeam’.