The Wizard of Oz

by L. Frank Baum

Other authorsW. W. Denslow (Illustrator)
Paper Book, 1956




Chicago, Rand McNally [1971, c1956]


After a cyclone transports her to the land of Oz, Dorothy must seek out the great wizard in order to return to Kansas.

User reviews

LibraryThing member elbakerone
L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is one of those precious novels that has almost been eclipsed in fame by the movie based on it. I must admit that more than once when picking up this book, I mentally sung to myself, "I'm off to read the wizard, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz". And yet as fond as I am of the classic musical, I somehow went through childhood never having read the original text. Berating myself over this, I eagerly downloaded the novel to my Kindle and joyfully read the simple story rather rapidly.

Baum really did create a wonderful fantasy story for children with this book. The prose is straightforward but beautifully descriptive and the adventures are quite numerous for such a short story. I was pleased to find that the movie had done justice to the book, but there were also some rather startling discoveries such as Dorothy's not-so-ruby slippers: the magical, iconic Hollywood footwear were originally written to be silver shoes. The book also covers much more of the various people and places in Oz, including the Winkies and the Quadlings, and another surprise was that the winged monkeys were not entirely evil.

I really enjoyed experiencing this book as an adult, but I'm rather sure I would have loved it even more as a child. Baum's imagination is extensive and I think Dorothy's adventures have a distinctive bedtime story feel to them. The classic characters of the Lion, Tin Woodsman, and Scarecrow, and even the spunky little dog Toto, make this a story about friendship and love as much as about fantasy and fun. Knowing that no matter how far one travels it is good to be safe and at home again, this story seems to end perfectly with the sighing words, "good night".
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LibraryThing member kaionvin
I don't think many more than a few fans of L. Frank Baum's 14-book Oz series claim The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a favorite. Speaking as a childhood Oz fan myself, I always considered this as not much more than a forgettable set-up for the much more interesting excursions that occur later in the series (with Ozma, and Glinda, and Captain Bill, and *insert your favorite combination of characters here*).

Rereading this now, as an adult, it's easy to see why: Baum's prose here is rather stilted and almost dour at times. It's not helped along by W. W. Denslow's illustrations, which, while rather intelligently using the limited color-printing to great effect, interpret Oz almost as a toy land. His Dorothy and crew in action seem almost dumpy and static, posed doll-like even, in comparison to the more sprightly drawings of John R. Neill (illustrator of the remaining 13 books by Baum, and the next 24 canon Oz books, including three he penned himself).

Yet in one way, Baum was entirely successful: he created a new American fairy tale. His talent for creating memorable characters created from both pillaged archetypes (echoes of parables and folktales abound) and strange invention is in full force here. And they tap into symbolic universal struggles. The iconic Dorothy, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow, the humbug Wizard- they’ve become intrinsic within pop culture. In that way, I’m really glad I reread it, not taking my own memories, “the populist interpretation”, Wicked, etc- as “good-enough” readings of the text.

This Oz isn’t the Technicolor dreamland of the 1939 MGM musical; this isn’t the joyful utopian adventure-land I remember. The land of Oz surprised me in both its simplicity and dangerous charm. The characters astounded me over and over again: Dorothy’s blessed frank and common-sense nature, the Scarecrow philosophical argument about the benefits of mind over heart, the Wizard’s people-pleasing nature, the Tin Man’s combination of compassionate heart and brutal ax hand. Please don’t take my word for it- it’s something new and something old… and unforgettable.
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LibraryThing member PMaranci
It's odd that this is the first time I've read an Oz book. I think I started one or two, long ago, and never finished them. But many people rave about Oz, and I love old books from that era (especially children's books), so recently I picked it up and read it through.

It didn't take long. In fact, I was quite surprised at how quickly I got through it. It's quite a short book. It's also very simply written. I don't think most young American children (say, ages 7 and up) would have any difficulty reading it at all. The grammar is slightly more formal than modern American English, but the vocabulary is startlingly ordinary; far less challenging than I'd expected.

Perhaps that's because most of the books I've read from that general era (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was first published in 1900) are English, and use a considerably deeper vocabulary. The majority of Americans would struggle with an unabridged Peter Pan or Winnie-the-Pooh, and be utterly defeated by Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

That said, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was a nice, light, and very quick read with some pleasantly funny moments. I'd heard that it was an extended political parable - the scarecrow representing Midwestern farmers, the Tin Woodsman representing the factory workers of the new Industrial Revolution, and the Lion representing...actually, I don't remember - but if that's the case (and it may well be) the result certainly doesn't seem to very complex. I probably won't read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz for myself again very soon, but I'll probably soon read it to my son - or see if he's interested in reading it for himself.

I can't help but wonder if I'd have loved the book if I had first read it when I was seven. But I just don't know.

Oh, I almost forgot: Of course I've seen the movie many times, and am quite fond of it. I expected the book to be very different from the movie, and it was - but it turned out that the movie was more faithful to the text than I'd realized. That said, I have to say that the movie actually seemed to make a strong theme (there's no place like home, of course) which the book lacked. But then, Dorothy seemed much younger in the book.

It was also interesting that in the book, the voyage to Oz was clearly NOT a dream (Uncle Henry had had to build a new house to replace the one that had been taken away by the tornado), whereas the movie made it fairly clear that Oz HAD all been Dorothy's fever-dream (since, among other things, the house was unchanged and still there).
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LibraryThing member saskreader
I was interested in reading at least this first book of the original Oz series after recently finishing Wicked by Gregory Maguire, if only to see what he based his novel on and what the 1939 movie was based on. I found it a little slow-going (even for a children's book), but overall imaginative and a good read. I don't have any interest in pursuing the rest of the series, but perhaps I might someday down the road when my children will be old enough to read them.… (more)
LibraryThing member betsyeggers
This is a wonderful book to read, especially if you love the movie, but you must be aware that the book is considerably different than the movie. I think this is a case where the majority of people will have seen the movie before reading the book, and therefore may not like the book. For example, the Emerald City is actually white, did you know that? They also encounter many talking animals such as a stork that saves the scarecrow and a mouse who is a queen. This book is much more detailed than the movie, as most books are.
I would recommend this book for my library (medium public library).
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LibraryThing member linnaea44
I think this is a great book for all to read. It is slightly different than the movie and gives insight on the historical happenings during that time. The imagery is not as colorful as the movie, the illustrations are far and few between which was kind of disappointing. Overall their are excellent messages for children to pick up on and ideals to grasp and understand. The quotes by the characters are priceless. I love the fact that the Scarecrow doesn't think he has a brain, yet is able to talk, think and behave as though he does. The characters are lacking confidence in themselves, when everything they wanted was right there in front of them in their actions. Great book, not surprised it has been around for 100 plus years!!… (more)
LibraryThing member zip_000
I was actually pretty disappointed with the book. My wife suggests that I was disappointed primarily because I already knew the story, but I'm not convinced that's it.

I know that it is a children's book, but I guess I was expecting something a little more mature - if I had to say what age range it would appeal to, I'd say about 4 or 5. I guess I was expecting something in the 9-12 age range.

The one thing that I did think was done quite well was the way that the author made it obvious to even very young readers that each of the characters - with the exception of Dorothy probably - already had what they were looking for, and making it clear without actually explaining it to them or harping on the fact. The way it was done, the reader "figures it out" on their own, which I would guess would be fun for a kid.
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LibraryThing member DameMuriel
I'm amazed by the reviews that insinuate that the book isn't as good as the movie. I enjoyed the movie growing up but didn’t like it as much after I saw Return to Oz, which I thought was a much better (and more frightening) film and, as it turns out, a more faithful adaptation of the Oz books. Actually, Return to Oz prompted me to read the Oz books.
If you still think the MGM musical is the bee's knees, then the book may not be to your liking. I, however, think it is fantastic. This book may seem dated and the action slow-moving but it was written at a time when people actually had attention spans and children weren't addicted to electronic devices. Be patient with it.
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LibraryThing member laf
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum is a an outstanding book where a girl, named Dorothy, gets whisked away by a tornado to the Wonderful World of Oz.

In this story, Dorothy has to talk to a talking Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and a Tin Woodman. She must find the Wizard of Oz to send her back home, but when she gets to Oz, she finds that he is an imposter. After that, Dorothy goes to Glinda, the good witch, who gives her a pair of flying shoes which Dorothy uses to fly home.

If you think about it, isn't Dorothy like the Greek God, Hermes, the messenger of the gods? They both have flying shoes. Hermes took people to the land of the dead, and Dorothy leads the tin woodman, lion, and the scarecrow to the City of Emeralds to find Oz. Could the Tin Woodman be one of Hephaestus' automatons? Could the Cowardly Lion be like the Nemean Lion, a vicious monster? Ha, Ha. Was this book inspired by Greek Mythology?

(Answer the poll on the right sidebar, or post a comment to give me your opinion.)

The moral of the story seems to be that there is no place like home. I think that because even when Dorothy had a whole kingdom at her fingertips, she still missed home.

This book also has flabbergasting ***chuckles*** illustrations. They are inked drawings, with amazing effects. For example, in the illustration at the beginning of Chapter 4 - The Road through the Forest, you can almost see into the forest with the 3D effect.oz

I recommend this book to anybody who wants a fantasy adventure story. It's a thrill ride all the way through.
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LibraryThing member PuffyBear
This is a really, really enjoyable book and is one of those must read books. I really, really liked it.

In this story a cyclone hits Dorothy's house in Kansas and, the cyclone caries Dorothy and her little dog Toto to a faraway land called "The land of Oz".
There, she meets four new friends...
The Scarecrow, The Tin Woodman and The Cowardly Lion.

So Dorothy and her friends decide to go to a famous wizard called Oz. They all want to go there for a reason...
Dorothy -To get back to Kansas, The Scarecrow -To get new brains, The Tin Woodman -To get a heart and The Cowardly Lion Wants to get.

Will Dorothy and her friends make it to the Great Oz?
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LibraryThing member knotbox
Almost everyone I know is familiar with the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland, while far fewer are the people who’ve also read the book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I read Ozma of Oz in 2003, thus familiarizing myself in the weird and wonderful ways that Oz exists. Ozma is book three in a series that began with Wonderful Wizard and continued on for thirteen more books. They are in the public domain and are frequently republished as classics and revisited as seen in the SyFy miniseries Tin Man or the book Wicked by Gregory Maguire.

I will provide a summary of the book for those who are unfamiliar with it. You can skip to the next paragraph if you’ve heard this before: there is a little girl, named Dorothy, who lives with her Aunt and Uncle in a very grey and flat part of Kansas, a state in the United States. A terrible twister comes upon their farm and before Dorothy can get into the storm cellar, she is knocked to the floor of her house and carried away, with the entire house, by the Twister. After a long time traveling in the quiet eye of the storm the house lands, and upon stepping outside in a bright and strange world she is heralded a heroine. Apparently her house landed on a wicked witch who had been terrorizing the inhabitants of Munchkinland. After taking the silver slippers from the witches feet and asking how she can get back to Kansas, she is directed to the Emerald City in which The Wonderful Wizard of Oz resides. If the Wizard cannot help her, no one can. Along the way she comes across a man made out of tin, a talking scarecrow and a lion who is the most cowardly beast in the forest. Together they make it to the Emerald City where nothing is exactly as it seems and they are sent on another quest, to kill the last wicked witch of Oz.

That isn’t even the end of the story — and it’s not a very long book!

The book and this particular audiobook, narrated by Anne Hathaway in’s a-list series, where well-known actors and actresses read their favorite novels, really seems intended for children. Frank L. Baum reputedly wrote these books as modern fairy tales when he began in 1901. Anne Hathaway reportedly thought of her nieces when she recorded the audiobook. I wish I had gotten to these books a little earlier in my life.

Anne Hathaway does a wonderful job bringing all the characters and creatures along Dorothy’s journey to life. Her accents and flamboyance are colorful and right in line with the overall tenor of the book: variety is the spice. Particularly memorable are her raspy scarecrow and valley-girl flamingo. Unfortunately this audio version is only available from Audible as a download — no possibility to borrow from the library.

Considering how easy it is to get your hands on these books — here, links to the series on Gutenberg — I’m going to read the rest soon. Unlike other old children’s books, I find they hold up really well. A recent question about holding onto our childhood favorites for the wrong reasons, engraining in the young stories where girls are often passive, made me rethink my determination to read more of the older ‘classical’ books I’ve heard lauded for years. Here’s the quote:
Female characters in books that are for "everyone" are often marginalized, stereotyped or one-dimensional. Especially in traditional favorites that are commonly highlighted in schools and libraries. For example, Peter Pan's Wendy is a stick-in-the-mud mother figure and Tiger Lily is a jealous exotic. Or, take Kanga, from Winnie the Pooh. There is nothing wrong with these books per se; they are wonderful stories, and they reflect a reality of their times, but continuing to give them preference -- out of habit, tradition, nostalgia -- in light of newer, more relevant and equitable stories is really not doing anyone any favors.
Here’s the source: What Does it Mean that Most Children's Books Are Still About White Boys?

I see The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a break from that generalization. It may not compare to Winnie the Pooh, but it certainly is a classic worth revisiting.
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LibraryThing member mj113469
Dorothy is a young girl who lives on a Kansas farm with her dog Toto. One day Dorothy and the farmhouse was sucked in to a tornado and dropped in a field in the country of the Munchkins. The house landed on the Wicked Witch of the East killing her. The Good Witch of the North comes to greet Dorothy and gives her a pair of shoes. In order to return to Kansas, Dorothy is to visit the Wizard of Oz. In the end Dorothy realizes that she had the power to go home all along without the Wizard.

I really did not like this book. I have never been able to get involved in this book even when I was in school. This book has to much make believe to grab my attention from the beginning.

This book could be by showing the students the movie and having them write a compare/contrast paper about he movie and the book. This could be used in teaching the children about society.
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LibraryThing member gaskella
The Wizard of Oz is one of our favourite family films at Gaskell Towers, and my daughter and I are really looking forward to going to see the new production at the Palladium during the Easter hols. It struck me though that I’d never actually read the original book, and the OUP very kindly sent me a copy of the Oxford World Classics edition – which has a lot of extra material for grown-ups about the history of Baum and his Oz stories, plus some of the original illustrations.

I was amazed to find out that the story was originally published in 1900, and it had had stage, film and musical versions just a few years later. Of course, it was the advent of Technicolor that made possible the different film musical we all know and love much later in 1939. In the notes, I also found that Baum got the name for the world of Oz from his filing cabinet O-Z.

For the rest of this post, I am assuming you’ve seen the film and know the basic story, so for no spoilers stop reading now.

The story itself is both the same and very different to the film – notably, Dorothy’s slippers are silver not ruby (changed to take advantage of Techicolor, red shoes being such objects of desire!). The obvious initial difference though is that there is no character-building extended introduction with Dorothy running away from Miss Gulch, finding Professor Marvel; no time to wistfully sit and hope for better times around the corner. We are introduced to the gray prairies of Kansas …

"When Dorothy stood in the doorway and looked around, she could see nothing but the great gray prairie on every side. Not a tree nor a house broke the broad sweep of flat country that reached the edge of the sky in all directions. The sun had baked the plowed land into a gray mass, with little cracks running through it. Even the grass was not green, for the sun had burned the tops of the long blades until they were the same gray color to be seen everywhere. Once the house had been painted, but the sun blistered the paint and the rains washed it away, and now the house was as dull and gray as everything else.
When Aunt Em had come to live there she was a young, pretty wife. The sun and wind had changed her, too. They had taken the sparkle from her eyes and left them a sober gray; they had taken the red from her cheeks and lips, and they were gray also. She was thin and gaunt, and never smiled, now."

… very depressing indeed. Then it’s straight into the cyclone, and off to Oz. Baum’s original Oz is a darker place – still full of colour, but much more menacing. The party seeking the Emerald city have to fight off many marauders and have much cause to be thankful for the Tin Woodsman’s sharp axe and the Lion’s claws. After the balloon goes up, they go on another supplementary quest to find Glinda, the Witch of the South so Dorothy can get home, and we meet the denizens of the Dainty China Country, the Hammer-heads and the Quadlings before Dorothy learns she had the means of her return on her feet all the time. Interestingly she says ‘Take me home to Aunt Em‘ rather than ‘There’s no place like home‘ while clicking her heels together, and Aunt Em is the first person she sees in the short final chapter.

Theories about the book being an economic and political allegory abound. I don’t know anything about turn of the century American politics, so can’t comment on that. However it’s clear that Baum appreciated the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, wanting to write a less horrific modern fairy-tale that combined the fantastic with home comforts. Apparently Dorothy is influenced by Carroll’s Alice, but whereas I love Alice’s questionning nature, I do find Dorothy rather too ready to accept her role as a future wife and housekeeper – the home comforts loving side of her nature is too submissive for me. I mean, she would never have managed to kill the Wicked Witch of the West if she’d not had a bucket of water ready for washing the floor!

This was an interesting book to read. It would be nice if today’s children would continue to read it.
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LibraryThing member iclairei
The story of Dorothy and her adventures through Oz.
LibraryThing member MMWiseheart
** spoiler alert ** After reading Wicked, I realized that I had never actually read The Wizard of Oz. I had seen the movie, which is very different. I was very pleasantly surprised by the book. It is full of action and the character development is done quite well. My favorite part in the whole book is the description of the Emerald City being white, and that it only appears emerald because everyone is made to wear emerald glasses. I highly recommend this book, especially if you have only ever seen the movie.… (more)
LibraryThing member CaroTheLibrarian
For all that the film is an absolute classic, this was disappointing. This seems very dated, and the writing somewhat clunky. A lot of the episodes from the film are included, but there is almost no character development, and seems overly simple. Rather makes me wonder how it ended up being such a 'classic' in the first place.… (more)
LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
I never read this in childhood, but I loved the Judy Garland film as a child. The book is a charmer, worth reading even if you've seen the film countless times. There are quite a few differences. For one the illustrations suggest a very young Dorothy--about six or so--not sixteen like Judy Garland in the film. The Dorothy of the book wears silver shoes, not ruby slippers. There are lots of other small details that are different, as well as whole chapters that never made it into the film--such as "The Queen of the Field Mice" and "The Dainty China Country." One thing was really striking given the film adaptation. Everything in Kansas is described as gray, the "sun had baked the plowed land into a gray mass" and even Uncle Henry's and Aunt Em's faces are gray--then when she gets to Oz it's filled with vibrant color. It seemed so right then that the part of the movie set in Kansas is black and white, while Oz is filmed in color. I don't know that as an adult, this quite appeals to me as much as Lewis Carroll's Alice books, and I don't think I'll be seeking out the rest of the series (Baum wrote 14 in all) but I can certainly see why this is seen as the classic American children's book, the way Carroll's is for Britain or Grimm's Fairy Tales for Germany.

By the way, I've read the books were continually challenged from the time the first was published (1900) to as recently as 1987 because they presented some witches as good--and because it featured strong female characters. Heavens. And I thought the uproar over Harry Potter among some was screwy....
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LibraryThing member DGibson
It's hard to negatively judge a classic, but I was disappointed by this book. I remembering enjoying it as a child so it is probably the adult in me being overly critical.
The book is very different from the movie. There are small differences in detail (silver slippers instead of ruby), character (the trio just think they're lacking something: the lion regularly acts brave, the tinman is often emotional, etc), and plot (the wicked Witch of the West only comes into the story when Dorothy and company set off to assassinate her for the Wizard).

The book has many fable elements, which is to be expected given Baum apparently wrote it in that style. However, the pacing feels off with the obvious climax (the confrontation with the Witch and the subsequent departure of the Wizard) coming two-thirds of the way through the novel.
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LibraryThing member jnwseid
This classic tale tells the story of Dorothy's journey to the strange and magical land of Oz, and the her many travails along the road home. This book is great for children starting in elementary school and up through middle school. It can also be read as a historical document in the context of American history and the election of 1896.… (more)
LibraryThing member mmsharp
I can't believe I never read this classic either. I've of course seen the movie a dozen times. I can only imagine what it would have been like to read such a book before the the movie. This book has made such an impact on children all over the world. Ironically I saw the movie Australia recently which uses this book in a few scenes. It's such a good imaginative book for kids to read.… (more)
LibraryThing member elliepotten
Why have I never read this book before?! Okay, I'll tell you why I've never read this book before - I HATE the movie. There, I said it. Get the lashings over with now, because I doubt I'll be changing my mind any time soon. The music! The stupid man in a lion costume! The wrong-coloured shoes! No no no.

So, as you might imagine, it was a very pleasant surprise when I found myself, twenty pages into the book, sitting with a gentle smile on my face thinking, "Yeah, just one more chapter before I go do something useful." This is actually a really lovely little book! It is charming and whimsical and full of polite conversation and intriguing creatures, just as a children's classic should be. As Dorothy and her friends wend their merry way towards self-knowledge and magical wish fulfillment, they meet with all kinds of nice people, bizarre monsters and tricky situations, but you know that everything's going to be okay in the end because Baum said so.

That said, it's not all sunshine and roses in the Land of Oz, oh no... What Baum omits by way of serious peril for his leading characters, he makes up for with the macabre ends he concocts for the naughty beasts that threaten them. Yes, the Wicked Witch of the West is destroyed with a humble bucket of water (if that's a spoiler... well, if you don't know it now you never will) - but everything else is thrown off a cliff, has its neck broken, is beheaded or chopped in half by the Tin Man's axe. All the kinds of deaths that make me shudder and put down my lunch for a moment. But then everybody skips on and is very jolly to have survived another menace, so that's okay.

Needless to say, the book was a wonderful little read, despite the fact that I had "We're off to see the wizard" stuck in my head THE WHOLE TIME. Baum's imaginary world was a delight to explore, twisting old fairytale cliches into something new and unique (like the mischievous Winged Monkeys and their three wishes taking the place of the traditional genie, for example), and Dorothy's well-mannered sweetness was like a soothing balm for my summer-holiday-brat-frazzled nerves. My edition is a smart little 'Great Reads' hardback, with cute cartoony line drawings that don't look AT ALL like the movie characters (much to their credit), which I found really rounded off the reading experience. Roll on book 2 - I think I'm hooked!
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LibraryThing member sedelia
I can't believe that after all this time of watching the movies and reading the books derived from the original story, I've never read the original! The Wizard of Oz is a cute, fun kid's adventure story that I could see young children absolutely loving. It is a bit simplistic in terms of writing and storytelling, but the message is timeless, and that counts for something. Careful parents -- this is the kind of story children ask to read over and over and over again.

And I would just like to say that I really like the message of this novel. I think it's gotten lost within the numerous retellings over the years, but I thought it was really heartwarming and a good thing for kids to hear. I do wish the witch were a bit more evil and scary, though. She seemed more of a side character than anything, which was strange, again, after seeing/reading all the adaptations.

As for the narration, it was good -- good pacing, intonation, etc. Fields makes sure to give everyone distinctive voices and does a good job at that. However, it contains nothing spectacular that would make me recommend it over the print version. I think reading either version is fine, it would just depend on your preference. I do, however, recommend reading it. It is slightly dated and I think adults would like it for its cultural history, not necessarily because of its inherent entertainment value (Although I'm still reeling over the whole silver slippers instead of ruby slippers thing. So weird!). But I'm sure that kids will love it!
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LibraryThing member laurakurtz
This is a classic tale of the orphan Dorothy and Toto, transported from Kansas to the land of Oz, where she tries to get home and help her friends along the way. they gain love, courage, and brains from her, and she goes home safely in the end after several hardships.
LibraryThing member Audacity88
It's a travesty that this book has been eclipsed by the 1939 movie made of it. Whereas the movie is a simple morality tale, the book is full of delicious ironies; two in particular that stand out are
1) the Emerald City's not actually being emerald, and
2) the fact that Dorothy's three companions clearly possess in spades the qualities which they believe themselves to lack.
How could a man wearing a silly looking lion costume ever properly represent the fearsome Lion from this book?
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LibraryThing member bohemima
Poor Frank Baum---so often the casual reader comes upon his book after viewing the best movie adaptation ever. The book is a bit different from the film, most notably in the ending, which is far superior to the movie's slick closing.

There is little backstory here; instead we are transported almost immediately to the land of Oz. "Wizard" is not nearly as dated as some books from the same era; the fantasy holds up well, we meet some funny characteres and Baum presents a painless moral lesson quickly seen by adults but not quite so quickly by children. A good read-aloud for second or third graders; a good read-alone for fourth or fifth gradeers.… (more)




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