Book Review: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Yes, I’m still reading classics: this week we have “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum. Like many people I am familiar with the story from the 1939 film, “The Wizard of Oz.” That was a great film that I did not fully appreciate until I had grown up. It’s a classic and I freely admit that. The book it is based on, however, does not quite measure up in my opinion.


First, the storyline is pretty much the same, although they did make some modifications in the movie. Some of the challenges were dealt with differently. Some of the encounters were different. And a lot of material was deleted from the movie. For example, there was no Queen of the Field Mice in the movie … at least, not that I can recall. But the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Lion, and that lovable fraud Oz are still there, although Oz is merely a ventriloquist, not an illusionist, and he has but a few interesting toys to serve as forms for his “body.”


Perhaps the biggest difference between the movie and the book was that in the movie the good witch, Glinda, shows up at the Emerald City. In the book, Dorothy and her cohorts must go on an entire new adventure to get to her city in the South. Oh yes, there is also the point that in the book, Oz is a real place; in the movie, it can be shrugged off as merely a dream.


Anyway, for those who haven’t read the book or seen the movie, the basic plot is this: Dorothy is a young girl living in Kansas who, along with her entire house, is pulled up into a tornado and carried away to the magical mystical land of Oz. Her house lands on one of the wicked witches and kills her, freeing the Munchkins from her rule. Although Dorothy is amazed by the beauty and majesty of the land, she knows she must return home to her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. So, she sets off along the yellow brick road in search of the Wizard of Oz, a great and powerful being said to have the ability of granting wishes. Along the way, she encounters several odd creatures she accepts as companions: the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion. The movie is great; the book is not so great. I leave the rest of the story for your own personal consumption.


Back to the book. The reason I did not like the book was because the dialogue, almost without exception, was heavily formal and stilted and lame. It just did not come across as natural in anyway. The rest of the writing was decent enough for a children’s book, but I couldn’t get past the clunky dialogue. Young children probably would not pick up on this.


As an adult, I’ll give the book three stars out of five (maybe). However, it probably warrants (for originality and such) four stars out of five for a child audience.

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About atoasttodragons

The author, Matthew D. Ryan, lives in northern New York on the shores of Lake Champlain, one of the largest lakes in the continental United States, famous for the Battle of Plattsburgh and the ever-elusive Lake Champlain Monster, a beastie more commonly referred to as Champy. Matthew has studied philosophy, mathematics, and computer science in the academic world. He has earned a black belt in martial arts.

7 responses to “Book Review: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”

  1. Juliette says :

    I’ve read all of the Oz books. I didn’t care for the first one much either but I love the books that come after it. Check out “Dorothy and The Wizard In Oz” where they go back after an earth quake and Dorothy’s wonderfully snarky cat Eureka can talk. “The Patchwork Girl of Oz” is another favorite. Baum have a fall out with the illustrator of the first book and brought in the wonderful John R. Neill. If you don’t read the books at least check out the illustrations. Dorothy goes from being a dumpy little farm girl to a very hip and fashionable smart young lady.

  2. Alex says :

    It also may be a factor that the first book was a somewhat heavy-handed political and economic allegory, whose meanings might be lost without familiarity of the political players of that day. For instance, the Emerald City is a metaphor for the US economy; the emerald green (symbolic partly of the US dollar) and the value of a city made entirely of precious stone is an illusion maintained by the deceit of the government; the wealth of an economy not backed by anything of true value is illusory.

    • atoasttodragons says :

      Huh. Interesting. Did they try going off the gold standard back in those days, too? Thought that was only done sometime in the 70’s.

      • Alex says :

        The overarching theme, as well as the political question of the day, was the debate between a gold and silver standard. The advantage of silver was that it was more plentiful and less valuable and therefore a better option for poorer farmers (such as Dorothy’s family) because it allowed for a greater liquidity than gold. If you have a chance, check out the Free Silver movement.

  3. debyfredericks says :

    I’d put the stilted dialogue down to the manner of the times. Baum was writing for a Victorian audience, they of the hours-long speeches, and his readers would have been comfortable with this style.

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