Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
1900, 259 pages

I somehow escaped my childhood without ever having read The Wizard of Oz, despite the fact that it was one of my favorite movies growing up, so when I saw it on the Reading List for the Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge I decided it was finally time for me to pick it up.

I accidentally requested the annotated version from the library:  a monster of a book with a 100+ page introduction, which I'm ashamed to say I skipped, along with most of the annotations... I did find some of the notes that were written alongside the text interesting, but I didn't want to be distracted from the story, especially since it was my first time reading it. I did enjoy the fact that the annotated version had the original illustrations from the book, but otherwise the massive annotations were wasted on me. Then again, I almost always skip over introductions/notes/etc when I'm reading.

One thing that I loved that I'm not sure comes across as well in the movie (it's been a while since I last watched the movie, so I can't say for sure), is that each of the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion actually exemplifies those traits (brains, heart, and courage, respectively) that they feel that they lack. Maybe it's really obvious and I'm silly for pointing it out, but I found passages like the following heartwarming: 
[...] He walked very carefully, with his eyes on the road, and when he saw a tiny ant toiling by he would step over it, so as not to harm it. The Tin Woodman knew very well he had no heart, and therefore he took great care never to be cruel or unkind to anything.

"You people with hearts," he said, "have something to guide you, and need never do wrong; but I have no heart, and so I must be very careful. When Oz gives me a heart of course I needn't mind so much." (Chapter 6)
This is completely irrelevant, but I cracked up when I read the following quote...
Now the Wicked Witch of the West had but one eye, yet that was as powerful as a telescope, and could see everywhere. (Chapter 12)
...the first thing I thought of upon reading that was Sauron in Lord of the Rings, and his "eye"! Ack, I feel silly. Another interesting factoid:  did you know that the "ruby" slippers were silver in the book - they changed them to ruby for the movie.

Back to the review, one thing I kept thinking while I was reading is whether I would have liked it if I'd read it as a child. I think I would have enjoyed it if I'd read it when I was young, but I'm curious to hear if anyone read this growing up, and what their impressions were. Here's one last quote, my favorite in the entire book: 
The Scarecrow listened carefully, and said,

"I cannot understand why you should wish to leave this beautiful country and go back to the dry, gray, place you call Kansas."

"That is because you have no brains," answered the girl. "No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home." (Chapter 4)


  1. I love this book! And that annotated copy is beautiful.

  2. This review is awesome and it really makes me want to read the book. Honestly, I was always creep out by the movie as a child, but then again that's how I felt towards Alice in Wonderland and Willy Wonka. Either way, I really do want to read this book after reading your review and even those passages you inserted.

    By the way, I'm looking at your Coming Soon sidebar and A Thousand Splendid Suns is a book I definitely want to read. I want to read the Kite Runner first though. I've seen the movie and it was really good!

  3. One more thing...I notice you have Anna Karenina on there too. I read that last year and it is very very good! It's really long, but worth reading. :)

  4. Fantastic review! Despite loving the movie as well, I've actually never read this either. But now I want to!

  5. I've been wanting to read this one for awhile. I don't know how come I didn't read it as a child. To be honest, I saw the movie for the first time only a couple of years ago. LOL

    Diary of an Eccentric

  6. Great review! I'm sad to say I haven't read this one. It's one of those classics that I've been meaning to pick up, along with Alice in Wonderland.

    Une Parole

  7. I read the wizard of oz on a very long car journey (there and back!) when I was around 10 years old. I remember finding it a lot scarier than the film, and a little hard going but not much else I'm afraid. I think I'll have to try it again as an adult.

    I have an award for you...

  8. This has long been my daughter's favorite movie and she read a young person's version of the book many times at a time in her life when she didn't much care for reading at all. One day, we'll get her the real deal!

  9. I really enjoyed reading this book. My copy had an introduction that was very annoying and talked incessantly about the movie. The book is so different from the movie. I also liked how each character already owned the trait they most wished for.

  10. I read this as an adult as a read-aloud to my sons. I'm sure I enjoyed it MUCH more than they did.

  11. I reviewed this recently too, here is the link if you want to read it

    I agree with you. What I liked most about the book was the way the 3 supporting character were portrayed as clearly having the things that were seeking.

    I think that it is a nice reminder that sometimes we just have look into ourselves to find those qualities that we wish we have. Every person has the potential to be what they want, they just have to search for it.