Monday, June 23, 2014

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

Title: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Series: Oz #1
Author: L. Frank Baum
Published: May 1900 by George M. Hill Company
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Synopsis: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a children's novel written by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by W. W. Denslow. Originally published by the George M. Hill Company in Chicago on May 17, 1900, it has since been reprinted numerous times, most often under the name The Wizard of Oz, which is the name of both the 1902 stage play and the extremely popular, highly acclaimed 1939 film version. The story chronicles the adventures of a girl named Dorothy in the Land of Oz. Thanks in part to the 1939 MGM movie, it is one of the best-known stories in American popular culture and has been widely translated. Its initial success, and the success of the popular 1902 Broadway musical Baum adapted from his story, led to Baum's writing thirteen more Oz books. The original book has been in the public domain in the US since 1956.

Baum dedicated the book "to my good friend & comrade, My Wife", Maud Gage Baum. In January 1901, George M. Hill Company, the publisher, completed printing the first edition, which probably totaled around 35,000 copies. Records indicate that 21,000 copies were sold through 1900. Historians, economists and literary scholars have examined and developed possible political interpretations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. However, the majority of the reading public simply takes the story at face value.

As you may know, here on the blog I like to do a monthly classic that fits the theme. This month's theme is retellings which makes choosing a classic a little difficult. What is a classic retelling? So instead of finding one that fit the theme perfectly I decided to choose a classic version of one of the books I was reading the retelling of. So I decided to read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz because despite my enjoyment of the movie and Oz retelling I have never read the original. And while I enjoyed reading the familiar story from its original source, as far as literature I wasn't completely entertained.

Firstly, what I found interesting about this book was further exploration of the land of Oz. The original source material always has much more info than other treatments of the story, so it was great to experience it from the way it was first written. Not only did we get to develop with the characters we are familiar with but we also got a few more and even got to visit some parts of Oz that weren't part of the movie. If the only thing you know about Oz is the Judy Garland film this book is actually quite different. It's definitely not as dark. We spend a lot less time with the Wicked Witch, and it is much less against fighting her and more about appeasing the wizard.

I also enjoyed and wasn't at all surprised by the books theme of politics and power. Many of the Oz retellings I have read including Wicked and Dorothy Must Die have an underlying theme of power and control. It is incredibly evident as to why after reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Simmering under the surface is the idea of how those who take control don't necessarily deserve it and how they tend to take advantage of their "subjects." I've heard before that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is political allegory for money and power in the late 19th century and after reading the book I am definitely in that school of thought.

But despite all that it did have going for it, I wasn't hooked on the story because of it's format and writing style. You guys probably know, I don't like travel montages. If all the characters do is move from point A to point B I am not at all entertained. I know going in that this is the kind of story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is, but what struck me throughout the course of reading was just how basic the plot was. It just felt very superficial. Every chapter was just "they did this thing and went here." That is probably my least favorite type of writing style and I was kind of disappointed in the way the book was written. I know this book was written for children so I shouldn't it too harshly, I just always have high expectations even when it comes to children's books. Maybe if I had read it when I was younger I would have liked it a little bit more.

I give The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum a 7 out of 10.

I would recommend this book to fans of The Wizard of Oz who want to explore the source material or read the book in it's original form. Or I would honestly recommend this book as a great bedtime story for your children. Read this book aloud and get them hooked on Oz.

Have you read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and of course... HAPPY READING!

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