Children's & Middle Grade

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

The Classic:

The Wizard of Oz cover

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910) by L. Frank Baum

L. Frank Baum’s tale of a little girl who discovers that there’s no place like home is one of the most beloved novels ever written. When a cyclone carries Dorothy and her little dog Toto into the magical land of Oz, she and her three new friends – Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion – journey to the Emerald city where they hope the Wizard will grant their hearts’ desires. All that stands in their way is a wicked witch, flying monkeys, and a topsy-turvy world where normal rules don’t apply.

Was it what I expected?

To an extent. It’s rather more intelligent than a lot of children’s books, full of nonsense but done in a very matter-of-fact tone that I enjoyed. Dorothy is written as a young child rather than a young adult, and the pace of the book is much different. The structure peaks in the middle, with journeys through interesting countryside as the first and third acts, so it’s a different experience than a typical book or movie structure. There’s some pleasant old-fashionedness in that, but I think it’d still have a lot of appeal for fanciful children today.

Did I like it?

Yes? I did like it, there’s some excellent imagery, but it never really grabbed me the way it might have if I’d read it when I was very young. I feel like I could’ve either read it as a little child and loved it forever, or I could study it intently now as an adult, but there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground of “happy leisure reading” at the moment. I had intended to read the first three, so I could get to the queer content in Ozma of Oz, but I’ve decided to read the graphic novel adaptations by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young instead. I enjoy Young’s art and it’ll be a quicker way to get through them.

Ozma of Oz Marvel
From Shanower and Young’s Ozma of Oz.

Is it worth reading?

Here’s the thing. There are some movies that are more well-known than the books on which they were based. Gone with the Wind, for instance, or Jaws. I’m not saying the movies are better — except Jaws, that book was terrible — but sometimes if it’s cultural literacy you’re after, the movie is the way to go. The book and movie in this case are rather different, so I only recommend the book if you like classic children’s literature. For day-to-day purposes you’re just fine seeing the movie.

This book is part of my Classics Club list!



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