03 January 2011

Book Review: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Pictures by W.W. Denslow

: George M. Hill Company; 1900
e-Book: 264 pages
Genre: Children's/Fairy Tale/Classic
Source: Google Books
Time to Read: 1-1/2 hours

| Enjoyability: 5 | Readability: E | Characterization: 4 | Overall: A- |
(Traditional Rating: 5 Stars)

The original published version of this classic fairy tale from L. Frank Baum is available as an e-book for free, complete with original illustrations by W.W. Denslow.  Though most famous for its 1939 film adaptation starring Judy Garland, the story of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz began in this book form as a modern fairy tale for the children of Baum's time.  In his introduction to the book, Baum claims that the old fairy tales could be filed away since moral lessons were now taught in modern schools and that this new tale exists solely for the enjoyment of its intended audience.

The story is familiar, but in its book form there are more adventures that failed to make it to the screen.  Dorothy, complete with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry's one-room house and her dog Toto, are swept away by a tornado from gray, rural Kansas to the colorful and strange Land of Oz.  She is met by the Munchkins (here all dressed in blue) and the Good Witch of the North, celebrating the demise of the Wicked Witch of the East, who was smashed flat by Dorothy's house.  The Good Witch gives the little girl the dead witch's silver shoes and asks how she got there.  Dorothy only wants to get back to her aunt and uncle in Kansas, so the Witch of the East helps.

Dorothy is sent to the City of Emeralds on the road paved with yellow brick (I think the aforementioned imagery as it is worded as such in the book brings a fresh picture in mind, avoiding the movie cliché).  There she is to meet the Wizard of Oz, who should be able to help her get home.  Along the way, she meets the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion (all three about whose origins we find more backstory).  Her three comrades all have a need they would like to request from the Wizard. From there, they continue their journey along the road which passes through the several other adventures both before and after visiting the Wizard, who sends them on a quest to kill the Wicked Witch of the West before he honors their requests.

In the end, the three Oz residents in Dorothy's party are granted leadership by the peoples of three different lands within Oz (the Scarecrow becomes ruler of Emerald City, the Tin Woodman over the former Wicked Witch of the West's domain, and the Lion over the animals in the forest).  Glinda the Good Witch of the South (who only just appears near the end of the book) reveals the way for Dorothy to get back home.

My Reaction
I really enjoyed reading this book.  Having seen the movie more times than I can even recollect to count, I at first had the images of the movie in mind.  However, with the assistance of Baum's literary imagery and Denslow's original illustrations present in the e-book, I was able to completely reimagine the story, which turned out to be somewhat different from the movie.  As far as those differences, the characters in the book seemed more well-rounded, especially with the backstory that each of Dorothy's companions gave.

The fantastical land of Oz that Baum laid out was certainly one that children (and even well-imagining adult) readers could visualize and even almost believe while reading.  The way he had the different communities in Oz so markedly unique revealed the imagination the author had.  This is certainly a fairy tale with a good deal of adventure and fantasy that I believe any child would love to hear read over and over and which adults can read and enjoy.

Reading Challenges:
2011 e-Book Challenge

Want this book?  Care to help out LeviSamJuno, too?  Click to buy The Wonderful Wizard of Oz from my aStoreNote the link goes to a newer publication of the book from a different publisher.

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