Series: The Oz Books, #1
Illustrator: W.W. Denslow
Publisher: Reilly & Lee Co.
Pub. Date: 1900, 1956
Genre: Modern Fantasy, Children’s
Pages: 237 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
If you want to know the real story of Oz, read L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz and skip the movie. Surprise, surprise. As I read this book, I was pretty angry with the movie for its inaccuracies and themes that were not in the book. I am biased about favoring the source material, but there are enough differences that I could write a separate post about it. I liked The Wizard of Oz (originally The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), but I hope the rest of the series is better. For this review, I will try to keep from comparing it to the movie.
Baum’s writing style is easy and smooth. It makes reading the book light and sweet. That works for introducing the world, keeping a humorous tone, and questioning Dorothy’s desire to return home.
The characters are developed. Dorothy is an alright child who reminds me of Gretel in one portion of the book, and I like that she has some concern about survival. Toto, the dog, is the best character of the book even though he does not talk. It is all in his protectiveness and playfulness. The Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion feel real, but I dislike them. Of Dorothy’s friends, the only one I can stand is Cowardly Lion. The Wizard of Oz is more unlikeable than the one in the movie. There is no clear villain throughout the story, unlike the movie depiction. The Wicked Witch of the West is more of a fairy-tale villain as was intended according to the author’s introduction and is only present for a short time.
The Land of Oz is stunning. The descriptions paint quite the vast picture. If the world is going to be separate from the “real” world, I like it when you can feel the massive size of a many nations. This includes kingdoms separated by days on foot. Some worlds are written smaller than they should, like The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani, but Oz is written as giant as it feels. I would have liked a map to keep better track of where Dorothy is, but I was not lost without one.
The illustrations by W.W. Denslow on the cover and inside the book are not spectacular to me. The cover is uninteresting and focuses on the poppies instead of more important events or locations. The line art is beautiful, but the problem for me lies in the choice of moments and characters to illustrate and the too big heads. One good aspect of the illustrations is that the single-color illustrations mark the transition between the worlds and the kingdoms. Kansas is brown; Munchkin Land (the East) is blue; the Emerald City is green; the land of the Winkies (the West) is orange-yellow; and the country of the Quadlings (the South) is red. The only problem with this is that it is unexplained why going through the poppy field has red illustrations because I am unaware that they belong to one particular country. The illustrations mainly enhance the motif of color.
With the play of color, there is emphasis on theme of having an optimistic perception with emerald-colored glasses. One theme is “there is no place like home.” Other themes include friendship and the price of getting your heart’s desire.
If all you know about The Wizard of Oz comes from the movie, read the book. Otherwise, if you want a taste of a fantastical land with a unique twist on creatures and magic, give this book a try.