Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Book review - L. Frank Baum's Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz

Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz (Oz Book 4) by L. Frank Baum
Published by: Books of Wonder
Publication Date: 1908
Format: Hardcover, 272 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

Dorothy once again ends up in the land of Oz because of a natural disaster. This time it isn't a storm at sea or a tornado. This time the ground literally opens at her feet from an earthquake and down she tumbles. She was on the way with her new kitten Eureka to meet up with her Uncle at his Brother-in-Laws ranch in California after the long trip back from Australia when Dorothy, her cousin Zeb, and the horse and buggy went a tumbling down. And they tumble and tumble, falling far but apparently not increasing in speed. They seem to be slowing down. A weird fairy world appears below them illuminated by multicolored suns where all the buildings are glass and gravity seems far more flexible. Also as it's a fairy world Jim the horse pulling the buggy and Eureka soon start chatting away. The people whom they descend on aren't at all pleased with their arrival. The Mangaboos quickly take the trespassers off to their wizard when whom should appear above? Dorthy's own wonderful wizard of Oz!

The Wizard has good timing and not only saves them all from the Mangaboos' wizard, but performs some wonderful humbug magic with nine cute little piglets, that Eureka thinks looks decidedly tasty. The Mangaboos are a strange and cold people, it's like they have no blood, which it turns out they don't, being vegetables! They soon revolt and throw the motley crew out of their land, wherein their true adventure begins, travelling through a land of invisible people where invisible bears are there, oh my. Wooden gargoyles and dragonettes all block the path on their way out of the center of the earth. Luckily when all seems lost, the deus ex machina of Oz swings fully into action and the wizard returns to the land he belongs in.

Looking back on this book I have this odd memory of hating it. Maybe that belief let me free up my expectations and just love it. The wizard is an unlikable humbug, Zeb doesn't do much, Jim the horse has to do the majority of the heavy lifting, but Eureka and the piggies are a delight in this odd comical children's version of what Journey to the Center of the Earth would mean to them. There's a Roald Dahl playfulness that is sometimes lacking in the earlier books that has Baum almost forcing the plot and the characters to interact. Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz felt like it just flowed from his pen. Though I do still have Dorothy issues. Dorothy, in another sign of her egocentrism, never thinks of what hell she's putting her family through until she gets bored and it's time to go home. Her Aunt and Uncle where actually MOURNING HER! Full on, black mourning. She almost killed her Uncle with her disappearance on the way to Australia, where they where going for HIS health, and here it is a few months later and she scares them again. There really needs to be a way to not scare the heck out of these good Kansas farm folk. Also, in a total non sequitur, how stupid is Toto? All other animals get to Oz or a fairy land and start chattering away, yet Toto never spoke once in the first book. He must be a total dullard.

Enough odd rantings, I want to state clearly why this book is the best Oz book. Eureka! This kitty cat is all the best qualities of cats, which none cat lovers will probably see as negatives, not understanding the subtlety of cat awesomeness. She's manipulative, vain, only out for herself and never hides the fact that she wants to eat those pork filled piggies. Everyone in Oz always extols their virtues and how wonderful they are, showing them to be pompous asses. Eureka just is. No one really likes her, no one really cares to have her around, but she never justifies, never apologizes, and just is. She won't even defend herself when she is brought to trial on charges of murder (one of the piggies of course). If all the characters would just learn to "be" this series would work so much better. Don't talk about it, don't extol, just be. And if you can, be a cat.


Read the end of Tik-Tok of Oz for the explanation of why Toto didn’t talk on his journeys to Oz with Dorothy even though Billina and Eureka did.

I will get there soon enough! I'm glad to hear there is an explanation though. Thanks for the heads up.

When I was a little girl (now 53) my mother bought me the entire set of these books. I still have them. My children enjoyed them as much as I did. I guess now it is the grandchildren's turn.

lag110 at mchsi dot com

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