Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

If you've ever stepped foot inside a library or a Barnes and Noble, then you know that there are a lot of books in the world. In fact, according to Google research, there are over 129 MILLION books out there. Even if you live to be 100, and were able to read the moment you were born, and you never slept, and you read one book EVERY MINUTE of your life (that's 1440 books per day), you still wouldn't be able to read them all.

Why am I telling you this? Because there are a lot of books I haven't read, and a lot of books you haven't read - and that's okay. Sometimes, though, the books I've missed seem genuinely worthwhile. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is one of those - a classic book I'd never gotten around to, but always wanted to read.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
L. Frank Baum
Middle Grade
Books of Wonder: HarperCollins Publishers
2000 (copyright 1900)
267 pages (hardcover)

Even though the Wizard of Oz is famous largely due to the movie, I really hope it would be famous anyway. It was just about the sweetest book I've ever read! You know the story, obviously. A farm girl named Dorthoy and her dog Toto are swept up by a twister, and end up in the magical land of Oz, where they team up with a "brainless" scarecrow, a "heartless" tin woodman, and a "cowardly" lion, and together the group travel a yellow brick road to the Emerald City, to enlist the help of the great Wizard. Along the way, they encounter munchkins, witches, flying moneys, sleep-inducing poppies, and other adventures.

As is often the case, the movie leaves out a number of plot points and chacters. There are other differences as well.The Wicked Witch of the West is certainly a villain in the book, but she isn't as omnipresent as she is in the film. For example, the field of poppies isn't her handiwork in the book the way it is in the movie. It's just there. Maybe because the witch isn't as central, the book feels fairly episodic. Some scenes, such as one where the group travels through a city of little china-glass people, aren't at all connected to the rest of the tale. That's okay. Everything is so charming that I was perfectly happy to see where the yellow brick road would lead next.

The version I got was the 100th anniversary edition, with the original illustrations and bookplates. If you can get your hands on a copy, I definitely recommend it.

The last word: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a classic for good reason, offering a sweet tale of kindness and friendship in a fascinating world of magic. Though in some ways old fashioned, it remains readable today.

Grade: A-

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