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.
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.