Review of Oz Book 1: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum (1900)
Earlier this year I vowed that I was going to read all of the original 14 Oz books this year. And to hold myself accountable, I’m going to blog reviews of the books as I read them.
And so the journey begins.
I began my reading with my Books of Wonder copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I’ve read this two or three times now, but it’s such a quick and easy read I had no problem jumping right in.
It’s hard not to compare this book to the 1939 movie with Judy Garland and company. That movie is so iconic it’s tough not to picture it when you are reading. However, I did my best. Denslow’s illustrations really help, though. Plus, the basics of the plot in this book are woven all through the movie. But the differences between this book and the movie make the book that much more endearing.
Like I said, the basics are the same. Young Dorothy and her dog Toto are whisked away to the land of Oz by a cyclone leaving behind Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. There she travels to the City of Emeralds to see Oz, the great and powerful, in hopes that he can return her to Kansas. Along the way she meets the Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman and the Cowardly Lion. While these basics are the same, the journey these characters make is different and much more dangerous than the MGM movie.
Some of the differences in the book include Dorothy meeting the Good Witch of the North in Munchkinland instead of Glinda, the Good Witch of the South (who she meets in the movie). Glinda doesn’t show up until the very end of the book. Also, and I think many people know this now, the magical shoes are silver in the book instead of ruby. We also don’t meet the Wicked Witch of the West face to face (they talk a lot about her) until the last third of the book. And those are just some of the differences to the movie.
As per the land of Oz itself in the book, there are many monsters and dangers the group meets along the way that aren’t in the movie. And luckily, the Tin Woodsman proves to be an awesomely skilled master of the axe when they meet these dangers. One of the first monsters they meet are called Kalidahs who have tiger heads and bear bodies (AWESOME). The Woodsman cuts down a bridge that dumps the creatures down a bottomless cavern. The Woodsman then manages to cut the head off a wildcat (with one swipe!), saving the Queen of the Field Mice and later on he beheads 40 of the Wicked Witch’s vicious wolves who come to attack the group. Honestly, like I said, the Tin Woodsman is a bad ass. Not to be outdone, the Cowardly Lion actually chops the head off a giant spider creature with his paw while protecting the denizens of a forest. So, needless to say, I loved all of this carnage in a childrens’ book from the turn of the 20th Century.
This book is just a lot of fun and I really enjoyed reading it. The differences between the book and the movie just make the story that much more endearing. Stuff like seeing the Emerald City is not actually made of emeralds, it’s just made of something like white marble but the citizens are forced to wear green glasses while in the city to make them think it’s emerald. Little touches like that make the story.
And I didn’t really talk about him that much, but Denslow’s illustrations throughout the book are awesome. He really brings to life the characters and environments in this fantastical story. I see why he has become as famous in Oz circles as the book’s author.
So this is a good start to my journey. Even though this is probably the third time I’ve read this book, I still really enjoyed it. I also really enjoy Baum’s writing style and his imagination in telling the story. I’m definitely looking forward to the next book.
Speaking of, the next Oz book written by Baum was The Marvelous Land of Oz in 1904. Baum and Denslow, however, had a falling out and a new illustrator was brought on for the next few sequels. We’ll see if he’s as good as Denslow.
But before that, I’ll review some of the adaptations of this first book. Marvel adapted the book into a comic, plus there have been numerous other early films based on this first book. I’ll look at those in my next installment of this series.
Here is my checklist of the Oz books. It includes 14 covers of Oz books that I plan to read. I’ll check each one off as I read and review them. For now, I can check off the first book. Only about 14 more to go (plus, possibly, some other surprises).