The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (Kid Review)

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My son and I saw the musical of The Wizard of Oz two years ago (when he was two years old), and he greatly enjoyed it. Somehow, he loved the movie too, even with the scary monkeys. Over the past two years, I’ve occasionally spied him acting out the story line (four friends go on an adventure down the Yellow Brick Road) with his stuffed animals. It definitely was time to visit the original story.

It’s hard to read the original for a story well known in another format (in this case, the well-popularized movie is much more familiar to me than the novel on which it was based). It’s probably scandalous for me to admit that the original story of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (originally published 1900) leaves me unsatisfied. True lovers of classics, especially children’s classics, will probably be upset with me. But I can’t deny it: I don’t particularly like the book (and I’m ducking to avoid the rotten tomatoes). I feel that while the movie’s plot is tight and clever1, the book fails to do anything more than tell a silly story with little to hold it together.

The story in Baum’s classic is a fun one in an imaginative new world far away from our own. We come to know different people, from the Munchkins to the Winkies in the land of the Wicked Witch of the West. This is a world where one can say a magic spell over a golden hat and get flying monkeys to fulfill wishes. There is a separate land in the midst of Oz where porcelain figurines live and play. Truly, Baum’s world is dream-like in it’s randomness and cleverness. I enjoyed reading the back story to Dorothy’s friends, from the Tin Woodman’s tragic love lost to the Scarecrow’s developing consciousness.

I read the book as a child (probably between the ages of 10 and 12), and I enjoyed it enough to seek out sequels, where new characters are introduced and more adventures enjoyed. Returning to Oz as an adult was rather disappointing for me. I simply felt a lack of interesting language (I felt Baum droned on and on), as well as a lack of coherency between each stage of Dorothy’s adventures. Things simply happened to the friends on their journey, but nothing brought the entire epic in a full circle. While there was nothing inherently wrong with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, it felt mediocre, not fantastic, to me. 2

Raisin and I have been reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz since May. There were weeks where we missed reading completely since summer has kept us busy, but in general in the past few weeks, we’ve read much more consistently. Taking this book slow made it hard for my son to see the correlation between this book and the movie because it is rather different, especially after the witch is melted (which happens about halfway through the book).

In general, I believe he enjoyed the book. Here are some sentences he wrote about the book. (The page we wrote the sentences down on had a picture of Dorothy, and so he wanted each sentence to say something about Dorothy, for the most part.)

Kid Review

Dorothy went through a cyclone! I liked the book because the flying monkeys were nice. I liked when Dorothy melted the witch. (It was so amazing!) Dorothy got on glasses at the Emerald City. Dorothy got attacked by the fighting trees and the Hammer-heads. At the end of the book, Dorothy got home again!

Have you read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz? Do you enjoy the Oz books, or did you when you were a child?

  1. Because this post is about the book and not the movie, I’ll relegate these thoughts to a footnote: In the movie, Dorothy, who doesn’t believe in herself, must find the strength within herself to get home, and in the end her dreams come true as she does so. I love how the entire movie story was actually a dream, and yet it still helped her find her place.
  2. This is quite a generality, but I think I tend to find myself less satisfied with American classics than with English classics. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which I obviously need to reread next, comes to mind as another seemingly random children’s adventure, and yet, I recall it being far more polished and satisfying to read.
Reviewed on August 3, 2012

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • I had a similar experience with the movie/book. I am a huge fan of the movie so much so that during a few years I would spend the rainy evenings watching the cartoon movie and the Judy Garland version. But when I got my iPad a few years ago I tried to read the novel and… it didn’t work. I just couldn’t: what if it destroyed my childhood memories? I finally decided to give it up and leave it unread. Now, reading your post, I’m very glad I did!

  • I liked the book and read it several times when I was a kid and once as an adult, but I agree with you that it’s episodic and meandering. The movie is much tighter. The whole sequence of events after they return to the Emerald City always felt tacked on to me, but that’s probably because they aren’t in the movie. The events themselves are pretty cool, though. I really liked the city of china figurine people. But I think the story has mostly lasted because the movie is so good. Even though I liked the book, I never bothered to read more of them, so I clearly didn’t love it that much.

    • Teresa » yes, the china figurine land was quite interesting. I think I did read some more of them as a child but in general, I feel the urge to stick with the movie when I want a Land of Oz experience!

  • The Wizard of Oz was one of my favorite movies as a child and I was so excited to see the musical on my 30th birthday last year while in London. My aunt likes to tell a story about how she asked me what it was about when I was about 6 and I proceeded to act out the entire movie for year. And yet, despite being a voracious reader, I didn’t pick the book up until a year ago. And I too was disappointed. It just didn’t seem to flow right. I had downloaded the whole series onto my Nook, yet I haven’t gone any further in reading them.

  • “Returning to Oz as an adult was rather disappointing for me. I simply felt a lack of interesting language (I felt Baum droned on and on), as well as a lack of coherency between each stage of Dorothy’s adventures. Things simply happened to the friends on their journey, but nothing brought the entire epic in a full circle. ”

    I’m so glad to see you mention this, because I felt the same. Except I’ve only read the book as an adult and so I felt so bad for not liking it more knowing how much of a childhood favourite it is for most.

    • Iris » It’s interesting to me how the movie so completely overshadowed the book for me! Had you seen the movie? Maybe that is a contributing factor to the book being so disappointing.

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