Tuesday, April 1, 2014

REVIEW: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
By: L Frank Baum

Genre: Literary Fiction, Classics, Fantasy
Pages: 214 pages

Date re-read: 3.30.2014

Summary: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a children's novel written by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by W. W. Denslow. Originally published by the George M. Hill Company in Chicago on May 17, 1900, it has since been reprinted numerous times, most often under the name The Wizard of Oz, which is the name of both the 1902 stage play and the extremely popular, highly acclaimed 1939 film version. The story chronicles the adventures of a girl named Dorothy in the Land of Oz. Thanks in part to the 1939 MGM movie, it is one of the best-known stories in American popular culture and has been widely translated. Its initial success, and the success of the popular 1902 Broadway musical Baum adapted from his story, led to Baum's writing thirteen more Oz books. The original book has been in the public domain in the US since 1956.

Baum dedicated the book "to my good friend & comrade, My Wife", Maud Gage Baum. In January 1901, George M. Hill Company, the publisher, completed printing the first edition, which probably totaled around 35,000 copies. Records indicate that 21,000 copies were sold through 1900.

Historians, economists and literary scholars have examined and developed possible political interpretations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. However, the majority of the reading public simply takes the story at face value.

My thoughts

I originally read this book when I was in 6th grade.  The movie was already my favorite movie (and is still one of my favorites of all time) and my English teacher asked us to vote on what book we would be reading next in class.  (We had already read A Christmas Carol as a class, then watched every version of the movie my teacher could find to compare.)  The Wonderful Wizard of Oz tied with another book and my teacher chose me to explain to the class WHY we should read this book - and my words must have been more compelling than I thought because this is the book that we ended up reading.

I have re-read it several times over the years (along with the rest of the series) and each time I grow to love it more and more.  This time I read it because Gurglings of a Putrid Stream on BookLikes mentioned doing a Blog Read and it sounded like lots of fun. 

I know that some people love this series and some people hate it.  When I went to get all of them in e-book form from Amazon, I read all of the reviews where people hated his writing, hated the fact that some of the stories weren't actually set in Oz, hated some of the characters - and then there are the people like me, who love this book.

Yes, the writing isn't the best (especially when you go back as an adult and read it).   Yes, there could have been more character building, though I think he did a great job building Oz itself.  But it was a book written for children to enjoy.     Too many times adults read a book written for children and decide it's written badly because they did not enjoy it.  Let a child read the same book and they will talk about how wonderful it is, how excited they were, how much they enjoyed the characters.  That is how I read this book, as if I was a child enjoying it for the first time.

I loved the scary bits.  Maybe that's just me.  I love Glinda and how spectacular she seems.  I love how Dorothy learns her lesson, that she should be thankful for her family and not always wish for more.  Just as I did in the movie (though, in some ways, I think the movie is far better), I love the Scarecrow and the Tin Man.  There is just something about these two characters in this book that make me love them.  

To me, the story is amazing and this one book alone has created an obsession with me - of reading anything Oz related.  (And, because of that English teacher, another obsession of comparing books to the movies created from them.)

I fully recommend that every middle school age child read not just this book, but the whole series.  And that adults go back and read it just once, even if you have already read it before.  But let your inner child enjoy the book instead of taking the time to tear it apart page by page.  Get lost in the story, enjoy the adventure and the new friends you make, and when you're done, shut the book ... and smile.

By the way, here's a link to the discussion, if you're interested in checking it out. :) 

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