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Book Reviews of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Author: L. Frank Baum, W. W. Denslow (Illustrator)
ISBN-13: 9780451518644
ISBN-10: 0451518640
Publication Date: 11/6/1984
Pages: 240
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

4 stars, based on 11 ratings
Publisher: Signet Classics
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

13 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on + 31 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
A complete and unabridged copy of the original story first published in 1900.
reviewed The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on + 3352 more book reviews
Oz never pales. Always worth reading.
diewachen avatar reviewed The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on + 15 more book reviews
Oz is one of the strangest worlds you will ever enter. The narrative voice in the first book of the Oz series has its flaws (far too many uses of "shall" and "for," a complete lack of contractions that makes for occasionally uncomfortable dialogue, and a similarity between the voices of the main heroes). That being said, it's a magical tour into a wonderful world of fantasy, horror and general weirdness that you won't soon forget.

Far too many people introduce themselves to this world through the MGM movie, and find the second portion of the plot to feel somewhat anticlimactic when they expect the story to end right after a failed balloon ride. Unfortunately, Wicked has added to unrealistic expectations by presenting a new version of the movie witch in book form. Those who have read the book know that in it tigers and bears are part of a chimerical amalgamation, the Wicked Witch of the West has a single binocular eye, flying apes aren't evil, scarecrows break the necks of violent crows, the emerald city isn't so emerald without glasses, silver slippers take you home, and kisses from a good witch protect you. The visit to the Wizard isn't the climax of the journey in the novel, it's simply a step along the path for each character to find their home. Further, there aren't just slippers, Munchkins, witches and wizards to contend with; there are golden caps, Winkies, Quadlings, Hammer Heads, mice kingdoms, wolves, bees and giant spiders, oh my!

If you are able, be sure to pick up an illustrated version of the book (like the Signet Classics edition). Baum is the American Louis Carroll. And, just as Carroll had John Tenniel, L. Frank Baum had W.W. Denslow to bring his characters to life in a visual medium
reviewed The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on + 14 more book reviews
We loved this book! Great to read aloud to the little ones.
reviewed The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on + 219 more book reviews
One of the true classics of American literature, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has stirred the imagination of young and old alike for over four generations. Originally published in 1900, it was the first truly American fairy tale, as Baum crafted a wonderful out of such familiar items as a cornfield scarecrow, a mechanical woodman, and a humbug wizard who used old-fashioned hokum to express that universal theme, "There's no place like home."
Follow the adventures of young Dorothy Gale and her dog, Toto, as their Kansas house is swept away by a cyclone and they find themselves in a strange land called Oz. Here she meets the Munchkins and joins the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion on an unforgettable journey to the Emerald City, where lives the all-powered Wizard of Oz.
reviewed The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on + 11 more book reviews
A classic!
Chycole avatar reviewed The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on + 479 more book reviews
A cyclone hits, and Dorothy is whisked from the flat plains of Kansas to the colorful and exciting land of Oz! Dorothy must travel to the Emerald City to see the Wizard of Oz, for only he has the magical power to help her return home again. Along the way, she is joined by the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the cowardly Lion, who also seek the help of the Wizard's great magic.

The journey along the yellow brick road is filled with danger and adventure, but at last Dorothy and her friends meet the wonderful Wizard. But none of the four travelers' requests will be granted until the Wicked Witch of the West is destroyed.
Luvbug avatar reviewed The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on + 225 more book reviews
Different then the movie but just as good.
reviewed The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on + 14 more book reviews
An easy read, though I prefer un-adapted books.
Bev7 avatar reviewed The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on + 97 more book reviews
This is an old time favorite published by Penquin Popular CLassics about Dorothy and the tin man and alll her friends on their way to the Land of Oz.
terez93 avatar reviewed The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on + 273 more book reviews
You're going to have to work a long day to find someone in the US who hasn't heard of the Wizard of Oz, or who hasn't seen the timeless classic film which was made during the Golden Age of cinema. However, you may find quite a few who, sadly, haven't read the book, or books, as the initial (this) one blossomed into an entire series, eventually numbering fourteen. It was the Harry Potter of its day, if you will - and, doubtless, J.K. took several pages (and ideas) from Baum's classic work about a hidden wizarding world inhabited by fantastical creatures. Lewis Carroll is probably in there, somewhere, too, whose mid-nineteenth-century works reportedly served as a major inspiration for Baum's modern fairy tale.

Most know the general story line from the similarly-titled movie, "The Wizard of Oz," released in 1939, featuring early cinema (and frequently vaudevillian) luminaries Judy Garland (who is decidedly older than the Dorothy of the book series), Frank Morgan, Jack Haley, Billie Burke as Glinda, and the much-typecast Margaret Hamilton, playing the Wicked Witch of the West, whose performance is hands-down the best in the film, in my opinion. Baums's stories have over the course of a century spawned an entire empire of subsequent adaptations, including feature films, cartoons, musicals, theater productions (one of which Baum composed himself, in 1902), and graphic novels. It's hard to imagine what could have been, had early filmmakers had the technological capabilities they now have in the modern day; this series would likely have been as lucrative for Baum as Harry Potter and Star Wars combined!

However, before the movie-Dorothy sang "Over the Rainbow" (which won the Academy Awards for Best Original Song), there was "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," penned by L. Frank Baum, and illustrated by W.W. Denslow. Thirteen additional books were subsequently released after the first was published in May, 1900. A total of 10,000 copies were initially printed, but three million had been sold by the time the book entered the public domain, in 1956. It's one of the most popular children's novels of all time, such that the Library of Congress even hailed it as America's "greatest and best-loved homegrown fairy tale."

Frank Baum was seemingly fascinated by fairy tales from an early age. He wrote in the introduction, in fact, that "every healthy youngster has a wholesome and instinctive love for stories fantastic, marvelous, and manifestly unreal." Those words have proved true time and again: in more modern times, we've seen the astonishing success of the fantastic worlds of the Harry Potter series, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, The Hunger Games, Narnia, The Golden Compass, and many more, whose authors, like Baum, have drawn on the timeless theme of Magic.

Baum himself wrote that the story "was written solely to please children of today. It aspires to bring a modernized fairy tale in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heart aches and nightmares are left out." Many more writers followed suit, in no small part due to Baum's overwhelming success, clearly, although in some cases the latter sentiment didn't hold. Some would argue that to make a good story, one which resonates through the ages, an element of tragedy is needed, however, as fables for generations prior were used as moralizing tales, to instill cultural values in children (i.e., Grimm's fairy tales). Indeed, that was frequently their primary purpose.

Reportedly, many of Baum's characters were drawn from his own personal experiences, including a scarecrow which haunted him throughout the duration of his childhood and a tin figure he assembled from spare parts. The Emerald City was reportedly derived from a previous story he had written, in 1890, about a farmer who put green goggles on his horses which made them think that the dry wood chips they were being fed during a severe drought were hay. The Yellow Brick Road may have been inspired by a road in Peekskill, New York, where Baum attended a military academy in his youth, which apparently featured a road paved with yellow-tinted bricks. Dorothy's story is more tragic: her name was factually derived from his newborn niece, Dorothy Louise Gage, his wife's sister's child, who died at age five months, in 1898. She was buried at Evergreen Cemetery, and her grave marker now has a statue of the fictional Dorothy next to it. Baum named his main character after her, and dedicated the book to his wife Maud.

Many have also claimed that Baum's statements that his stories were nothing more than children's literature are also untrue. Some have stated that at least the original, 1900 book can be read as allegory, a critique of everything from monetary policy in the nineteenth century to politics to modernity itself. Is the tornado a metaphor for environmental degradation, which, by the 1930s, when the movie was made, had swept away farms and livelihoods of untold thousands of families in America's heartland? It's no accident that the Wizard is an expat from Omaha who just by chance ends up in Oz, and Dorothy is from a seemingly impoverished, one-room homestead in rural Kansas, where everything is described as gray, monochromatic, where no one laughs or rejoices as they have nothing to be happy about. The movie conveys this sentiment even more starkly than the book, with its use of black-and-white (sepia-toned, really) and contrasting richly-hued TechniColor.

Other authors have proposed even more elaborate theories. Henry Littlefield wrote in a 1964 article his belief that the Yellow Brick Road represented the gold standard and Dorothy's silver shoes, which only became the world-famous Ruby Slippers in the 1939 movie, represent the 16:1 Silverite silver ratio. Film producers wanted them to stand out in color to a far greater degree than the muted tone of silver, so ruby slippers were born. Some also suggest that the name "Oz" represents the abbreviation of "ounces," although it may also be an allusion to Australia, which features prominently in the next book, "Return to Oz."

Others have stated that the characters themselves have specific representations: Baum's 1902 musical version makes some direct references to prominent figures, such as the Tin Woodsman's reference to Rockefeller. Historian Quentin Taylor claimed that the Scarecrow with no brain represented American farmers, the Tin Man with no heart representing the steel industry, with its massive exploitation of workers, and the Cowardly Lion as a metaphor for the US military's performance in the Spanish-American War. Taylor claimed that the cyclone represented a political revolution which transformed the countryside into a land of prosperity, but also possibly political upheaval.

Still others claimed that the Wicked Witch of the West represented the American West, and the Winged Monkeys indigenous peoples, the king of whom tells Dorothy in the book that "once we were were a free people... eating nuts and fruit and doing just as we pleased without calling anybody master," before the Wizard of Oz's reign. The Man Behind the Curtain could certainly be considered an unflattering representation of either American political power or even the president himself. In fact, apparently Margaret Atwood reportedly referenced Donald Trump as the wizard after his election, stating that "he has no magic powers."

Whatever you think about the allegorical implications of this world-renowned children's classic, clearly, its influences have been far-reaching. I won't go through the plot in any real detail, as so many people are familiar with the story, and, if they aren't, they should be! One of the primary differences to me between the original book and the 1939 film is all the help Dorothy gets along the way, which is largely absent from the film: she's taken in by some of the Munchkins and is wined and dined, initially, and then gets help from the many creatures who inhabit Baum's fantastical, dream-like world, including thousands of field mice, who rescue Dorothy and the Lion from the poppy field which puts them to sleep (which is decidedly absent from the movie version), and even a kindly stork which plucks the Scarecrow from a river and delivers him safely to shore.

However you read it, it's definitely an American classic which I would recommend for school-age children everywhere, as a shared cultural phenomenon. Although I think it's well past its heyday, I wish it would experience a popular resurgence on the order of the fervor over a new Harry Potter release. A fourteen-film series using modern movie-making technology could yield some very interesting things!
buzzby avatar reviewed The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on + 6062 more book reviews
Condensed and adapted by Suzi Alexander
reviewed The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on + 35 more book reviews
A Scholastic Junior Classic