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The Wonderful O

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  927 Ratings  ·  122 Reviews
This delightful tale, first published in 1957, features two pirate adventurers, Black and Littlejack, who sail to the island ofOoroo in search of treature. Black, a despot, bans anythings and everything to do with the letter O upon his arrival there. Now the people of the newly named island of R must live without things containing a letter O in their names...
Published November 1st 2001 by New Millennium Audio (first published 1957)
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  • The Wonderful O by James Thurber
    The Wonderful O
    Release date: Jun 06, 2017
    Enter for your chance to win a copy of THE WONDERFUL O, by James Thurber.


    Great American humorist James Thurber’s beloved, madcap

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    Giveaway dates: May 16 - Jun 06, 2017

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    Community Reviews

    (showing 1-30)
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    Oct 19, 2013 Manny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    This book was one of my favorites when I was about eight, and I read it innumerable times. I can still remember many passages verbatim. In case you don't know it, here is a brief summary of the plot. Two disreputable pirates, Black and Littlejack, arrive at the island of Ooroo. They have reason to believe that a fabulous treasure is buried there. They also have an insane hatred of the letter O.

    They proceed to search for the treasure, and also to ban everything that contains an O in its name: clo
    Sep 10, 2009 karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: kiddiwinx
    imagine a wrld withut the letter . a wrld withut chicken ndle sup r the mn (well...). where peple can eat ham but nt prk. it is very cmplicated, and incnsistent in its legislatin. but still pretty fun, and its a kids bk, s we can ignre the little hiccups in lgic. and, n, its nt written withut the letter , its just abut a land where that particular letter is banned; its n perec junir. but its still a fun light read, and a lt less glmy than perec can be.
    Sep 29, 2009 notgettingenough rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: humour
    I'm just asking....

    Was this Carl Sagan's favourite book when he was like eight?
    I like The Wonderful O as much now as I did when I first read it at age 8. If you haven't come across it, imagine that George Orwell and Lewis Carroll got drunk one night and decided to collaborate on a short children's book. No description will do it justice.

    But to give you a taste of what you're missing, here's the song that Black and Littlejack sing as they set out on their insane quest to ban the letter 'O':
    I won't go down the horrible street
    To see the horrible people
    I'll gladly climb the
    Aug 16, 2009 Greg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Sort of like OULIPO for kids. Or would it just be a kind of Perec for kids? Or maybe just a warning to kids to stay away from people who discriminate against particular vowels, and try to rid the world (or the text) of them.

    Pirates attack a small island. When they find no treasures the head pirate gets very angry and punishes the island by ridding it of anything that has the letter O in it, the bane of his existence. What follows is an attempt by the pirates and their collaborators (I just real
    Feb 03, 2017 Cheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    A fable for all ages that would be *wonderful* as a family read-aloud. Beyond the crazy tongue-twisters created by taking the letters O out of our words, the language itself is brilliant... well, of course, it's Thurber. I'm not sure the plot is amazing, and the characters definitely aren't (only one female, a young woman who does happen to be the hero but is still not any more defined than the other stock characters). But the premise, and the development thereof, and the word-play, oh my.

    Ivonne Rovira
    Feb 23, 2014 Ivonne Rovira rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Recommended to Ivonne by: Manny Rayner
    While James Thurber might be best known for his wonderfully illustrated short stories, especially The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Other Pieces, he penned some tales for children, and The Wonderful O is one. Like the best children’s stories though — think The Chronicles of Narnia, The Book Thief, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, and The Magic ThiefThe Wonderful O will appeal to adults who still enjoy some whimsy in their lives.

    Just about anyone could have predicted that banning words
    I came across this book looking for something to get my niece Hailey for her birthday. The story is reminiscent of Mark Dunn's Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters, which also explores issues of hope, love, valor and freedom. Pirates invade the island of Ooroo looking for lost treasure. Their leader, the man named Black, loathes the letter "O" because his mother had suffered a terrible mishap involving a porthole so he outlaws any word containing it (which allows Thurber to get away with all sort ...more
    Feb 13, 2017 Trisha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Thurber's story telling and use of the English language is simply brilliant, and this book is a delightful read aloud.
    Oct 26, 2012 meeners rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: children
    found this randomly in a used bookstore. it is wonderful indeed.

    first paragraph:
    Somewhere a ponderous tower clock slowly dropped a dozen strokes into the gloom. Storm clouds rode low along the horizon, and no moon shone. Only a melancholy chorus of frogs broke the soundlessness. Then a strange figure appeared out of the nocturnal somnolence, as unexpectedly as the blare of a bugle in a lullaby. He entered the tavern near the sea, and a blade of light flashed into the blackness and disappeared wh
    A very short tale about an island that is invaded by pirates looking for treasure. They can't find treasure so they remove everything with an "O" in it because the captain hates words with "O"s. At the end I didn't wish I had the time I spent reading back, but on the whole I was unimpressed.
    I got about half way through this delightful volume before I gave in and started to read it aloud to my cats. I don't know whether they appreciated it or not but it certainly enhanced my reading experience. If you love words and language you should love this tale of pirates(?) who are willing to subjugate an entire peaceful island civilization in search of some jewels. Their method of oppression? Outlawing any word, or item, that contains the letter o. I pondered whether this was actually a poli ...more
    Jun 14, 2013 Ian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: 1001-books
    A magical little fairytale, with evil pirates Black and Littlejack seeking treasure on the island of Ooroo, and systematically robbing the letter o from out of the lives of the inhabitants. This causes all srts f prblems (especially for Ophelia Oliver, who had to withdraw from the society of men), as the lives f the ppulatin becme really difficult withut that letter. There are undertnes f ppressin and peaceful prtest, but thankfully nrmality is restred with the aid f magic.
    Thurber's lve f langua
    Aug 07, 2015 Melora rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Quirky fun. This is wonderful to read aloud to the right audience -- it's not about the story, but about what Thurber does with words and language. My kids gave it five stars. I don't love it the way I do The 13 Clocks, but the words and rhythms are really fun.
    Dec 01, 2012 Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    This bk is a wrdsmith's dream. 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. It's a wonderful surprise that this book turns out to be about human liberty.
    Sep 26, 2009 Adam rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: nyrb-kids
    After a very promising beginning this book quickly devolves into tedium. The interest in wordplay that is evident in Thurber's other children's books becomes, here, unrelentlessly self-indulgent. If I'd read this first, I doubt I would have gone on to discover The 13 Clocks, his masterpiece of juvenilia.
    Jan 09, 2013 Jan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Recommends it for: children and adults
    Recommended to Jan by: Hew Wolff
    Shelves: children-s
    Not as Wonderful as The Thirteen Clocks, but it's still Thurber, so it's still pretty wonderful.
    Mike Heyd
    Jan 14, 2016 Mike Heyd rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Although not without shortcomings, coruscating word romp conveying cautionary story of dictatorial proclamations or injudicious missions... O!
    May 18, 2017 Philip rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Silly, smart and...well...wonderful.
    May 04, 2017 Sara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: favorites
    The most adorable and cute book ever. Even being a children's book there is so much cleverness and insight that the book is truly enjoyable as an adult.
    Óscar Brox
    Apr 12, 2014 Óscar Brox rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    A propósito del Oulipo, el taller de literatura potencial fundado por Raymond Queneau y François Le Lionnais en 1960, decía uno de sus integrantes que era como un laberinto de palabras, sonidos, frases o párrafos. Un cruce entre la técnica y la emoción, donde la pasión por las combinaciones literarias no era menos importante que la alegría de vivir. A finales de los 50, al otro lado del Atlántico, James Thurber apuraba los pocos años de vida que le quedaban -moriría en 1961- con pequeños relatos ...more
    Penny Peck
    Feb 20, 2012 Penny Peck rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: children-ya
    When I was compiling the list of Phantom Tollbooth readalikes, I knew Thurber’s The Wonderful O would be my first choice. I read this as a kid, and have re-read it a few times since then, and always found it clever, original, and entertaining. A new picture book by Tom Lichtenheld, E-mergency! (Chronicle Books, 2011), has a similar theme. In E-mergency!, the letter E has an accident and must rest in the hospital, so everyone must stop using that crucial letter. In The Wonderful O, a pirate named ...more
    Alexis Neal
    A fun short story by humorist James Thurber, though nowhere near as clever or delightful as the fanciful The 13 Clocks.

    Two pirates, Littlejack and Black, plus their minions, set off on a treasure hunt that takes them to the island of Ooroo. The inhabitants don't know anything about any treasure, so the pirates and minions scour the island, wreaking havoc and destroying anything that gets in their path. Along the way, the pirate Black, who has an unaccountable loathing for the letter 'O', tries t
    Mariano Hortal
    Publicado en

    El libro que vengo a comentar hoy tiene dos hándicaps a priori: el primero, evidentemente tiene que ver con su extensión, es demasiado corto; y nos guste o no, mucha gente compra libros “al peso”; es decir, si no le va a proporcionar horas de lectura no va a parecer necesario hacer el gasto; el segundo problema tiene que ver con el tema, es una fábula humorística, esto no debería ser tan importante, pero, hoy en día, el gran James Thurber no e
    Alisha Erasmus
    I have recently read the book The Wonderful O by James Thurber. The story starts off in a pub. A man by the name of Little Jack walked in a took a seat by a mysterious man dressed in black, his name was Black. He talked about a map on an island across the sea. A map that leads to piles and piles of jewels. Little jack is very interested. He asks in he has a ship and Black does off course. The name was an interesting name composed of vowels except the letter O. Black and Little Jack both hated th ...more
    Jul 06, 2012 Lormac rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
    "The Wonderful O" is definitely a childrens story meant to be read only by adults. Or maybe children from the 1930s - before TV and the advent of the shortened attention span.

    This very slim volume (the slimness of which is what attracted me - well, that and the fact that it is written by Thurber - usually a fairly funny fellow) is a story of a island which is taken hostage by villians and pirates who hate the letter "o" and therefore ban it. The unhappy citizens find a ancient legend which even
    Catherine Gillespie
    My 8 year old asked if she could read our copy of The Wonderful O for her reading out loud (I have the older kids read out loud to me as a separate skill from reading individually). While it’s a really interesting concept (a pirate forces the populace of an island to take all letter O’s out of words) and the language use is excellent–lots of internal rhyme and interesting diction–it really does not lend itself to fluid reading aloud. Many of the sections of dialogue are full of words with the O’ ...more
    Mar 24, 2013 vaugnfreech rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: childrens
    This book is a treasure...I found in Booksale. Got it for only 25 pesos and I had much entertainment.

    I really can say that James Thurber is one genius. Imagine, writing a book all about a particular vowel in the alphabet: the letter 'O'.

    The book reminds me of The Phantom Tollbooth. There's a lot of wordplay here. I love wordplay!

    Meet Little Jack and Black, two ruthless pirates who came upon the Island of Ooroo riding the shio Aeiu (without the O). The two hates the letter O and adding up the tri
    Travelling Sunny
    Maybe I missed reading this when I was still in the "target audience." I just didn't really enjoy this one. It was cute, but I didn't initially understand WHY Black didn't like the letter O. After sleeping on it, it hit me that the porthole was SHAPED like the letter O, but still. But, a child should have gotten it, right? Yet, my 10 year old (an advanced reader) didn't.

    He gave up on it before really getting started, but I finished the story. It just seemed disjointed to me. A pirate searching f
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    Thurber was born in Columbus, Ohio to Charles L. Thurber and Mary Agnes (Mame) Fisher Thurber. Both of his parents greatly influenced his work. His father, a sporadically employed clerk and minor politician who dreamed of being a lawyer or an actor, is said to have been the inspiration for the small, timid protagonist typical of many of his stories. Thurber described his mother as a "born comedien ...more
    More about James Thurber...

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    “Taking a single letter from the alphaber," he said, "should make life simpler."

    "I don't see why. Take the F from life and you have lie. It's adding a letter to simple that makes it simpler. Taking a letter from hoarder makes it harder.”
    “Books can be burned,” croaked Black.

    “They have a way of rising from the ashes,” said Andreus.”
    More quotes…