Wizard of Oz Read-Along
Book 1 – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

January 30, 2017 Books, Read-Alongs 10

Welcome to the Oz! Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

Book 1 – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Dorothy thinks she’s lost forever when a tornado whirls her and her dog, Toto, into a magical world. To get home, she must find the wonderful wizard in the Emerald City of Oz. On the way she meets the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion. But the Wicked Witch of the West has her own plans for the new arrival — will Dorothy ever see Kansas again?

My Thoughts:

I vaguely remember reading this as a kid, but unsurprisingly the book story was supplanted by the movie story in my memory and the only thing I really recalled from the book was the whimsical illustrations and Dorothy’s silver shoes. But some scenes came back to me during this little re-read: Boq the Munchkin, the dainty people of China Country (my favorites for some reason), the goofy green glasses worn in Emerald City, and the Wicked Witch having only one eye.

There seemed to be rather a lot more gore and property destruction than I remembered, too, what with all the chopping off of heads and the smashing up of buildings and suchlike. Probably not the kind of story that could get a G rating if Disney tried a true-to-the-book animated film version these days — not that I’m complaining, it just wasn’t expected. I seem to have taken it all in stride when I read it as a child, which seems to be pretty common — grown-ups notice and are sometimes shocked by “bad” things in stories that kiddos wouldn’t blink an eye at.

A lot of the characters (all of them?) are not all that well fleshed-out. And a lot of them are just idiots. Still, it’s a charming little story, and I’m a huge sucker for creative/insane world-building, so that wasn’t too much of a problem for me. There are better children’s fantasy books out there these days, but it’s easy for me to see why this one was so well-loved in its time and gained “classic” status so quickly.

Questions:
  • Have you read this book before? How did your re-read match up with your memory? Or if you haven’t read it before, did the book live up to your expectations?
  • If you’ve seen the 1939 musical film, how do you think the book compares? Do you like one a whole lot better than the other?
  • Did you have a favorite character or culture/land?

Are you reading this series along with me? If you have reviewed or discussed this book online, please feel free to post a link to that in the comments. (But you don’t have to be an “official” participant to discuss this book in the comments if you feel so inclined.)

Please note: Even though I try to avoid major spoilers in my blog post, I can’t promise that the comments will remain spoiler-free too — so read at your own risk!

Want to participate in this read-along? Sign up here.

10 Responses to “Wizard of Oz Read-Along
Book 1 – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

  1. Margaret Walk

    (Some spoilers ahead!)

    My review! http://notsinceyesterday.ishness.com/2017/01/24/the-wonderful-wizard-of-oz/

    I’ve never read the book before! I think I was expecting a much more engaging story than what I got, which was a Whimsical Tour of the Land of Oz. Also Dorothy is really a jerk in that way all children are (I was actively horrified when she asked the china Princess if she could KEEP HER ON THE MANTLE AT HOME).

    That said, I kind of loved the Scarecrow and the Lion in particular. My memory of the Scarecrow from the movie is that he was kind of a clownish guy, but in the book his quick wits and the way he’s shown to care about his friends were highlights for me. The Lion on the other hand was just cute. I think he’s cute! He might not appreciate that.

    I also had a bit of an existential crisis at the end of the book upon realizing that the Scarecrow and Tin Woodsman are functionally immortal and all their friends will die around them? A little dark, I know, but I can’t help thinking about it.

    I’m hoping the rest of the series have some more plot elements now that the world has been established. I don’t really mind the Grand Tour format this book took, but I like a little more action in my children’s books.

    • Louise

      Haha, yes, Dorothy is kind of a jerk isn’t she? And apparently the Tin Woodsman and the Scarecrow show up with more interesting stories in later books, though I haven’t read that far ahead yet.

  2. Warren

    I had read this book a few years ago after falling for a very nice modern cover in a local bookshop.
    I tried to approach this read as fresh, but was thinking too how modern readers’ experience will inevitably be coloured by the movie icons. The fate of the Wicked Witch of the West is very much an anticlimax in the book and happens halfway through the story. It really is a children’s book of a certain era, and it’s style was still prevalent in the 1960s when I started reading.
    I did like the backstory of the Tin Woodman. And of course each of the seekers is already in possession of what they want, they just don’t know it, even Dorothy.
    A thought I had at the very beginning that persisted with me through the read was how much Laura Ingalls Wilder would have appreciated this story, initially set on the Kansas prairie and involving a girl her age having adventures. Of course this was written 15-20 years after Laura’s childhood and books were scarce, but it must have resonated a little if/when Wilder read it later, even down to the little china shepherdess on the mantle. Just a little flight of fancy.

    • Louise

      “It really is a children’s book of a certain era […]” Yes, you put that perfectly! Contemp children’s literature really is different. Also — that’s such a lovely idea about LIW reading the Oz books.

  3. Darlene

    Hello! I just wanted to let you know that I’m still reading the first book aloud to my daughter so my check-in will be a bit late 🙂

    I will come back when we have finished!

  4. Darlene

    We’re finished!

    The link to my Discussion Post is here:

    http://darlenesbooknook.blogspot.com/2017/02/wizard-of-oz-read-along-discussion-post.html

    The link to my Book Review is here:

    http://darlenesbooknook.blogspot.ca/2017/02/book-review-wizard-of-oz-by-l-frank.html

    I agree with you, Louise, about the gore being unexpected. I did not remember that part at all from my childhood. Must have blocked it out, LOL! Did the Wicked Witch really have only one eye in the book? I must have missed that part! Of course, I can’t help visualizing the characters from the movie, which is why I always prefer to read it first and then watch the movie. I can’t wait to see my daughter’s reaction to the movie and see how she thinks it compares to the book because she hasn’t seen it yet.

    • Louise

      Awesome, thanks for sharing links to your posts. I bet your daughter will enjoy the movie immensely, but in a completely different way from those of us who saw the movie first and read the book(s) after.

  5. Al @ mounttoberead

    I never responded to this last month though I’d read the book! Link to my review here: http://mounttoberead.blogspot.com/2017/01/the-wonderful-wizard-of-oz-by-l-frank.html

    I’ve read the book a few times; I believe this was read number four or five for me. It lived up to my expectations for the most part, though I’ll admit, my expectations were rather low.

    I love the movie. I grew up on the movie and knew it before I knew the books. As such, Margaret Hamilton is my definitive Wicked Witch, and I have a very difficult time with the Wicked Witch here. She’s just not that scary (though Baum did warn us this was a fairy story without all the scary elements to it…).

    I think the book has a lot more social commentary than the movie though. It’s hard for me to decide a favorite character because none of them live up to their movie counterparts for me. I suppose the scarecrow, as he’s the one I like most in the movie, but even so I’m not sure on it.

    • Louise

      Oh yes, the book witch and the movie witch are so different, they hardly seem like the same character! I guess that’s somewhat true for most of them, though.

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