Wednesday, January 07, 2015

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

My own silver shoes.

You know how this one goes. A young girl named Dorothy and her little dog, Toto, are carried by a cyclone to the strange land of Oz, where she makes friends with a Scarecrow, a Tin Woodman, and a cowardly Lion, and goes on a quest to find her way home.

I went to see the musical Wicked last year and I decided to read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz beforehand to remind myself what happened in the story as I knew it. It's a children's book, so I knew it would be a short read, and although I'd read various picture-book versions of the story, and had seen the film, I'd never read the original story before, and I was curious. Lots of other people seem to have read the entire Oz series in their childhoods and loved it, so I downloaded the first book onto my Nook and started reading it.

It's odd. I couldn't tell if it was meant to be satirical - for most of the book there's so little humour that it seems like it could all be a joke - the characters are so one-dimensional that it seems silly! It's a relief each of the few times the author makes a joke about this - the best are at the end, when Glinda lets loose with the puns.

It is very similar to the film adaptation and all the picture book versions I'd read. There's a few extra details, but the biggest change is that the ruby slippers are silver shoes!

Because I knew the plot and I didn't find the writing endearing, I stopped reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz after a couple of days. I only resumed reading it a couple of days ago, when I'd finished reading another book while on the train.

I'm glad I read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but it's far from a favourite, and I wouldn't say there's much in it that will interest adults, though I think it will stay a children's classic, being a fairytale with a few twists. Apparently, the style of the other books is quite different so I will keep an open mind and try reading the first of the many sequels, The Marvelous Land of Oz.

As these books are in the public domain, you can download them from the links below for free:
Download L. Frank Baum's books from Project Gutenberg
Download audio versions of L. Frank Baum's books from LibriVox

I also wanted to pick out a print edition of this book to link to here, and was amazed by the cool stuff available. I've put a few of the most interesting below (affiliate links). The 'Classics Reimagined' edition looks like a work of modern art, whereas the Osborne Illustrated Originals version would have been my pick as a child! But if I was going to have any version of this book it would be the Annotated version, because I am a complete nerd and I think it would be really interesting! I'll have to check the libraries.

Have you read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and/or any of the other Oz books? What did you think?

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