The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum is a classic children’s fantasy adventure which has been adapted multiple times into films and television series. The original release was a collaboration between Baum and W.W. Denslow, who created the amazing illustrations in the first edition which are included in many of the subsequent editions.
The plot is pretty basic: Dorothy, an orphan living with her aunt and uncle on the gray and boring plains of Kansas, is carried away with her little dog Toto by a cyclone (now called a tornado) to the magical and colorful land of Oz, where she meets up with the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman, and the Lion on her journey to meet the great wizard, Oz, in the Emerald City.
Along the way, she has a variety of adventures, some familiar to those who have seen the iconic film starring Judy Garland as a significantly-older-than-in-the-book Dorothy. Others, such as the China Country and the Hammer Heads hill, are completely different or aren’t shown in any of the adaptations I’ve seen.
I think my favorite thing about this first of the Oz books is how Baum tells the story in a very matter-of-fact way, as if he’s telling it to a wide-eyed youngster who is hanging on his every word. The story is simply enjoyable and flows very well from one point to another.
Another thing which struck me is that, unlike many other fantasy novels and stories I’ve read, this one doesn’t hold up Oz as the ideal place to be. Sure, it has interesting and amazing features, but all through the book Dorothy’s only goal is to return home to her aunt and uncle on the gray and boring plains of Kansas. More than anything else, she just wants to go home. I think this one point helped stir that feeling in countless readers over the last century-plus, endearing the story to the reader on a very basic level with feelings anyone and everyone can understand.
The only thing which took some adjustment was the language of the book, given that it was written over 113 years ago. Some of the words used are different (e.g., “cyclone” instead of “tornado”), and the way the characters talk is quite a bit different than spoken English today. Still, Baum’s imagination has to be given credit as the descriptions used conjure up amazing scenery and characters which have inspired many authors to this day.
I really enjoyed this book, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has young children or who is simply young at heart. It’s a fun story and not too long. Take the time to spark the imagination of a child of any age and read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz today!
Release Date: May 17, 1900 (USA)
ISBNs: 0060293233 (9780060293239)
Violence: 1 (some minor fantasy violence)