L. Frank Baum
George M. Hill Company, 1900 261 pages
The much beloved and classic adventures of Dorothy and her little dog Toto as they get swept up in a Kansas tornado and land in the magical Land of Oz. On her quest to return home Dorothy meets new friends with needs of their own and the merry band of misfits journey through dangerous terrain in order to meet the Wizard, who will hopefully grant their requests. Once in the Emerald City, the friends meet the Wizard, who sends them on an impossible task: to destroy the Wicked Witch of the West. They do just that, only to return and find that the Wizard is a humbug. Even though he is able to provided Dorothy's friends with what they seek, a disastrous balloon launch leaves her still in Oz with little hope. Further journeying leads the group to the Dainty China Country, attacking trees, past dangerous hammer-head people, and finally into the land of the Quadlings and to the good witch Glinda, who educates Dorothy on the real magic of the slippers. Dorothy and Toto arrive back in Kansas, richer for the magical adventures they shared and the new friends they met in the Land of Oz
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is thought to be the first true American fairy tale. Although magical stories were written for children prior to 1900, this is the first that is based on purely American sensibilities and not our European heritage. Every American child thinks they know the story and they probably do know the basics. But understanding of the classic movie is not the same as reading the book. In order to turn the book into a movie many parts of the plot had to be stripped away, including my favorite bit when they go into the land of the Dainty People. I am a big fan of the movie and especially love the songs that were added to make it more accessible to a movie going audience in the 1930's. Both are great, but different experiences. The language of the book is rich and vibrant and, if you are lucky enough to get your hands on a copy with the original illustrations, it is a visual treat. Gregory Maguire based his novel Wicked, which then inspired the Broadway show, on the book not the movie. If you read Wicked having seen only the movie, much of the politics and peoples of Oz will be lost on you. This book is a true American classic. It was a best seller in the early part of the previous century and has stood the test of time. I enjoyed reading it as a child in the 1970's and enjoyed the re-read during the dark January days of winter.