Wizard of Oz

At one point in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz (the fourth book in L. Frank Baum's original 14-volume series), the Wizard uses daggers to make a sword and then fights giant invisible bears. Later in the book, he kills the king of the Mangaboos by slicing him in half—which isn't nearly as gory as it sounds because the Mangaboos are a race of vegetable people with insides like turnips.

These aren't your typical fantasy stories for young readers. Even the tamed movie version starring Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale (though she was much too old for the part) has left countless viewers with lifetime nightmares and complexes thanks to the flying monkeys and the green guys with halberds, and the movie is considerably less bizarre than any one of the books.

Which is one of the many reasons these books are awesome. Before you jump to conclusions, Dear Reader, we are not in favor of damaging children psychologically by giving them disturbing reading material. But we'd also argue that the Oz books aren't particularly likely to damage anyone, at least no more than many other classic children's books.

L. Frank Baum was a pretty weird guy. He supported and believed in all kinds of things that we don't, and was an early supporter of radical feminism. Yet for all that, he had a vast, well-exercised imagination, a vivid and witty writing style, and an understanding of children that Sig Freud could only ever dream about.

Are the Wizard of Oz books strange? Undoubtedly, yes. There's a queen who puts on different heads according to the day and her mood, a talking sawhorse, a Nome king desperately afraid of eggs, an army of women armed with knitting needles, a tree that grows filled lunch pails....and that's not even the weird stuff.

It's this strangeness that makes them so appealing to kids. A child's imagination isn't limited to what makes sense, to what is internally consistent, to what won't be considered silly, or by any of the other constraints that adults use to hobble their own creative powers. Baum's imagination is a child's imagination, but he conveys it with the deftness of an excellent adult writer.

He also makes it scary. Kids know the world is scary and dangerous, though, so they aren't shocked when the terrifying Wheelers show up, or the Wicked Witch, or the flying monkeys (who aren't quite as creepy as their movie counterparts, actually). They expect things like that, and we shouldn't be too worried that they won't be able to handle such things.

We should also remember that just because something is weird or unfamiliar doesn't mean that it's frightening. A lot of what sends chills up an adult's spine (because of associations, memories, or whatever) will only make kids laugh. Oz is a land of harsh realities, paradisiacal fantasies, and curiosities, all designed to delight and thrill kids, not leave them sleepless.

Without Baum's prose style, all these features would likely fall flat. But he's the real wizard, casting words like elaborate spells that would hook us even without the crazy imaginings they contain. The two together—brilliant style and wild creation—make these some of the best children's books ever, and fantasies that all but the most adult-y grownups will gladly read.

After Baum's death, others picked the series up where he left off, and some of these books are entertaining, but the genius is contained to his original fourteen stories. John R. Neill's brilliant illustrations complement Lyman Frank's flights of fancy, and draw each of us for awhile into a land where a virtuous little girl encounters the strangest the world can offer with aplomb and wisdom.

 

Order Title Illustrator Year
1 The Wonderful Wizard of Oz W. W. Denslow 1900
1 The Marvelous Land of Oz John R. Neill 1904
3 Ozma of Oz John R. Neill 1907
4 Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz John R. Neill 1908
5 The Road to Oz John R. Neill 1909
6 The Emerald City of Oz John R. Neill 1910
7 The Patchwork Girl of Oz John R. Neill 1913
8 Tik-Tok of Oz John R. Neill 1914
9 The Scarecrow of Oz John R. Neill 1915
10 Rinkitink in Oz John R. Neill 1916
11 Lost Princess of Oz John R. Neill 1917
12 Tin Woodman of Oz John R. Neill 1918
13 Magic of Oz John R. Neill 1919
14 Glinda of Oz John R. Neill 1920
none Little Wizard Stories of Oz John R. Neill 1914

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.

 

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17 Items found Print
Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz
Wizard of Oz Book 4
by L. Frank Baum
from Dover Publications
for 2nd-6th grade
in Fantasy Fiction (Location: FIC-FAN)
$7.96
Emerald City of Oz
Wizard of Oz Book 6
by L. Frank Baum
from Dover Publications
for 4th-8th grade
in Fantasy Fiction (Location: FIC-FAN)
$11.96
Glinda of Oz
Wizard of Oz Book 14
by L. Frank Baum
from Dover Publications
for 4th-8th grade
in Fantasy Fiction (Location: FIC-FAN)
$10.36
Lost Princess of Oz
Wizard of Oz Book 11
by L. Frank Baum
from Dover Publications
for 4th-8th grade
in Fantasy Fiction (Location: FIC-FAN)
$8.76
Magic of Oz
Wizard of Oz Book 13
by L. Frank Baum
Unabridged from Dover Publications
for 2nd-5th grade
in Fantasy Fiction (Location: FIC-FAN)
$8.76
Marvelous Land of Oz
Wizard of Oz Book 2
by L. Frank Baum
from Dover Publications
for 3rd-5th grade
in Fantasy Fiction (Location: FIC-FAN)
$13.56
Ozma of Oz
Wizard of Oz Book 3
by L. Frank Baum
from Dover Publications
for 4th-7th grade
in Fantasy Fiction (Location: FIC-FAN)
$8.76
Patchwork Girl of Oz
Wizard of Oz Book 7
by L. Frank Baum
Reissue from Dover Publications
for 4th-8th grade
in Fantasy Fiction (Location: FIC-FAN)
$10.36 $7.00 (1 in stock)
Queen Zixi of Ix
by L. Frank Baum
from Dover Publications
for 4th-8th grade
in Fantasy Fiction (Location: FIC-FAN)
$8.76
Rinkitink in Oz
Wizard of Oz Book 10
by L. Frank Baum
from Dover Publications
for 4th-8th grade
in Fantasy Fiction (Location: FIC-FAN)
$8.76
Road to Oz
Wizard of Oz Book 5
by L. Frank Baum
from Dover Publications
for 4th-8th grade
in Fantasy Fiction (Location: FIC-FAN)
$7.16
Scarecrow of Oz
Wizard of Oz Book 9
by L. Frank Baum
from Bottom of the Hill Publishing
for 4th-8th grade
in Fantasy Fiction (Location: FIC-FAN)
$7.99
Tik-Tok of Oz
Wizard of Oz Book 8
by L. Frank Baum
from Dover Publications
for 4th-8th grade
in Fantasy Fiction (Location: FIC-FAN)
$14.36
Tin Woodman of Oz
Wizard of Oz Book 12
by L. Frank Baum
from Bottom of the Hill Publishing
for 4th-8th grade
in Fantasy Fiction (Location: FIC-FAN)
$7.99
Wizard of Oz
by L. Frank Baum
1981st edition from Grosset & Dunlap
for 4th-7th grade
in Fantasy Fiction (Location: FIC-FAN)
Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Wizard of Oz Book 1
by L. Frank Baum
Unknown from Dover Publications
for 3rd-8th grade
in Fantasy Fiction (Location: FIC-FAN)
$11.99 $7.50 (2 in stock)
Wonderful Wizard of Oz - Coloring Book
by Coloring Books, L. Frank Baum
1st edition from Dover Publications
for 2nd-6th grade
in Dover Coloring Books (Location: R-DOVER)
$3.74